By Joseph Domelowicz Jr.
According to the majority of Lynn speakers at a Tuesday hearing about a proposed new Charter School in Central Square, the city cannot afford a new Charter School, which would drain resources from Lynn’s already struggling school district.
Superintendent Catherine Latham, was joined Tuesday by dozens of school officials, city department heads and elected leaders of the city who came out to voice their opposition to the proposed Central Square Charter School, before a public hearing held by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE).
According to Latham, the proposed Central Square Charter School does not meet crucial state standards, and City Inspectional Services Director Michael Donovan told the board that the building that would house the proposed new school, the former Lynn Item Newspaper Building on Exchange St., is not suitable for a school environment for children and the building itself is in fact older than two of the city’s existing middle schools, which are being replaced.
Tuesay’s hearing was to take comment from the public about the proposed Central Square Public Charter School, which would be open a middle and high school students, but would begin in 2017, with 160 fifth- and sixth-graders.
Charter school proponent and Lynn resident Frank DeVito said the former newspaper building’s design matches the “wide open” classroom space design school organizers envision. In a handout provided at the hearing, the Charter School proponents noted that “Lynn has few educational options” and city schools lack an “integrated approach to student learning …”
“This proposal is about sticking up for people who are underserved,” DeVito said.
However, Latham struck at the heart of educational standards and told the board that crucial parts of Central Square Charter’s plan do not conform with state guidelines. She urged Board of Elementary and Secondary Education members to “think hard before you support flawed charter proposals.”
The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will accept comments on the charter proposal until Jan. 6. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester will review comments and make recommendations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education before Feb. 23.
The city’s state delegation, led by Senator Thomas McGee and City Council President Dan Cahill, representing the full council, also spoke against the proposal.
Following the meeting, At-Large Councilor Buzzy Barton said he thought the hearing went well.
“I hope they (the DESE Board members) heard the message that was sent,” said Barton. “We don’t need another Charter School in Lynn, and financially we just can’t afford it.”
Though charter schools are public schools, they are not run or managed by the local school committee and school administration and the funding formula that supports them derives from the local school district, essentially charging the district a per pupil rate for each student that leaves the district school and attends a Charter School.