SIDE NOTE: We have since obtained a number of copies of other letters sent to not only Mr. Wulfson but also to a Mary Street, another DESE employee who is (or was) responsible for the oversight of MVRCS. It is disturbing to us that the DESE has had parents write to them in the past yet no actions have been taken. We must question at what point does the DESE begin to care about the questionable actions of our school enough to actually do something. It is beginning to look like the fox has been put in charge of the hen house.
This letter was sent to Mr. Wulfson a the DESE along with numerous other individuals we felt may have the answers we seek. In true UnOfficialMVRCS, this was also sent to a number of media and news outlets.
Dear Mr. Wulfson;
We would like to thank you for offering to be the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s contact person for our group. To clarify, we are a group of parents with children in Mystic Valley Regional Charter School who have become concerned with the operation and management of our school. As a result we have created a blog that can be found at UnOfficialMVRCS.blogspot.com with the hope of drawing attention to the issues. We have insisted upon anonymity out of fear of repercussions to our children on the part of the Board of Trustees and Administration of our school. We find it unfortunate that we feel the need to protect our identity but have heard from many parents who felt attacked and victimized by the school as a result of vocalizing their criticisms or questions. We do not imagine that the DESE approves of this practice or behavior nor would allow it to occur. Further, the need to conceal our identity has resulted in drawing attention away from our issues and concerns as our identities and motives are constantly being questioned.
Our purpose for writing to you at this juncture is to question the DESE as to what their exact role is in the oversight of our school. We have read numerous site visit reports (some of which are written by you) that draw attention to such issues as the schools refusal to incorporate term limits for Trustee members into their by-laws, the Boards failure to comply with the Open Meeting laws, specifically in relation to the Executive Sessions, and the concern that the Board may be too involved in the day to day operations of the school. We have also heard from numerous parents and teachers who have relayed their experiences when contacting your agency for issues such as discrepancies in reports, special education issues, failure to comply the IDEA, NCLB, retaliation of ADA laws, and issues related to the schools failure to report neglect or threats of harm regarding students. Our blog also brings to light such issues as violations of Charter school laws (specifically the re-admittance of relatives of the Administration), clear violations of the conflict of issue laws (including nepotism, preferential treatment to children of Trustees and Administration regarding the lottery and waitlist), the schools practice of including questionable language and restrictions within teachers contracts, and examples of the lack of respect Neil Kinnon demonstrates towards parents and in the hiring of highly qualified teachers, which has a direct impact on their high turnover rate.
We could continue detailing the information our site has presented (the majority of which can be confirmed should the occasion arise) yet we believe either yourself and/or individuals within your agency have reviewed our site as a link was forwarded to a large number of individuals within the DESE. That being said, we find ourselves questioning what the role of your agency in ensuring that our schools follow the laws that govern them, enforcing the guidelines, expectations and directives of your agency, and ensure that our children receive the education and services they are entitled to? We had previously hoped and believed that schools were governed by their state education agency but as a result of our knowledge and experiences with MVRCS, we must question our prior beliefs. We have come to conclude that while the DESE should be the authority and act as enforcers of the laws and regulations, little is done other than to identify the violations or concerns observed and hope that the school is managed by individuals with character, integrity, ethics, and respect for the laws and regulations that govern them. If it does not fall within the authority of the DESE to enforce the laws and regulations of our government, to act as an unbiased mediator between parents and school officials, and to have the hold the needs of our children first and foremost, then we ask who this responsibility does fall to. In other words, how do we, as concerned, frightened parents ensure that the needs of our children are being met and that the school is following the laws and regulations that govern it? Please tell us how do we go about requiring the school to follow the regulations, directives and suggestions that your agency has in place to ensure children receive the education they are entitled to without parents feeling harassed, intimidated, or fearful of questioning the actions of the individuals who are there to serve those same children and parents? In short, please guide us in initiating change within our school to ensure its future viability and success. Thank you, The Parents of the UnofficialMVRCS Blog
A Few Brief Examples:
From Sept 2007 Board of Education Minutes which can be found at:
Yes, it is a bit old but it still hasn't changed.
The school's board consists of five members, the minimum number of members allowed by the school's bylaws. Three of the members have served on the board since the school's founding, one has served for six years, and one has served for four years. To date, the board has refused to comply with the Charter School Office that the school's bylaws include a provision for specific reasonable limits on successive or total terms that a member may serve.
● Site visit teams and the renewal inspection team found that the school does not comply with the provisions of the state's Open Meeting Law in that board minutes do not consistently reflect a public declaration of the purpose of the executive session, record votes on the question of whether to convene an open session, and indicate whether the board would reconvene in open meeting after executive session. In addition, matters discussed in executive session do not always fall within the allowable purposes outlined in the Open Meeting Law, and board subcommittees do not maintain minutes.
In August 2007, the Department determined that the MVRCS Mid-cycle Coordinated Program Review Progress Reports do not demonstrate that the school is moving forward to fully implement its Corrective Action Plan. The Department has issued a directive to MVRCS that includes the required steps the school must take to correct previously identified noncompliance areas in special education, civil rights, and English language learners.
This is response to the Open Meeting Laws and demonstrates that the DESE is aware of their noncompliance.
In response to a question about the Mystic Valley Regional Charter School’s failure to comply with the state’s open meeting law, Associate Commissioner Wulfson said the Attorney General enforces that law, but the Department holds charter schools accountable and would point out such a problem.
October 1, 2010 1:10 PM
http://www.doe.mass.edu/charter/governance/adminguide.pdf that discusses that the By-Laws must:
13. define a number of years that shall constitute a term.
14. set a specific, reasonable, limit on successive or total terms that a member may serve.
It does not appear as though MVRCS has done so. Are they required to do so or is the guide just to provide suggestions? Many of the problems of this school are as a result of the Board and the control that Mr. Kinnon has over them and the school. He is in direct violation of many Conflict of Interest and Code of Conduct Laws yet does not appear to have to rectify them. The Board has taken total control of the day to day management of the school, so much so that Dr. McCleary has little say and is just a name on a door. It is very upsetting. We have created a blog to address the many negative implications of this situation at UnOfficialMVRCS.blogspot.com and would appreciate any guidance or assistance you may be able to offer.
- Complete List of All Links
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- Conflict of Issues and Lottery Issues
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- List of DESE, Community Leaders and Media Contacted
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- Copy: Top 50 Paid Employees @ MVRC Posted in the Boston Globe