This month charter schools in general and Mystic Valley Regional Charter School have been in the news. In the beginning of March the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) approved 16 applications for new charter schools (Boston Globe - 16 New Charter Schools Approved). While many may question our position on charter schools, we must state that we are generally proponents of the concept of charter schools. What we oppose is the opening of educational facilities that are either not required to follow the laws that govern them or the DESE doesn’t have the ability or willingness to ensure compliance. Although charter schools have always been required to accommodate both Special Education students and English Language Learners, a new law now requires applicants to meet the academic needs of these student populations and must demonstrate past success in doing so. Many Special Education and English Language Learner advocates believe that this requirement is largely ignored within charter schools. Additionally, while we have had our own experiences (and heard from many other individuals) with the DESE and their inability or unwillingness to enforce their own laws, it seems that the future outlook is not promising:
“Jerry Mogul, Executive Director of Massachusetts Advocates for Children, who testified on behalf of children with disabilities yesterday, said the state board shared some of the advocates’ concerns, but “they only offered vague promises of monitoring. We were disappointed that they didn’t really offer any kind of concrete remedy.’’
If the DESE is referring to the manner in which they currently handle MVRCS blatant disregard for the laws that govern charter schools, then one can only imagine what their ‘promises of monitoring’ will include. We are left to believe that the ‘monitoring’ will be less than adequate and that the problems will continue.
More recently the Boston Globe (Boston Globe Anti-Bullying) and the Melrose Free Press (Melrose Free Press Anti-Bullying) reported on the efforts of schools to meet the new anti-bullying legislation that went into effect last May. All public schools (including charter schools, collaboratives, and special education support groups) were required to submit a plan by the end of 2010, giving them 8 months to complete an adequate plan. The DESE provided each school with a model plan and checklist of what was to be included. According to the DESE, Mystic Valley’s plan was rejected as it was missing at least 25% of the requirements. According to the Boston Globe article, the plan was to include “procedures for reporting and investigating cases of bullying; a range of disciplinary actions against perpetrators; the establishment of support services to provide counseling to victims and aggressors; and staff training to create strategies to prevent and stop bullying.”
We find this interesting and noteworthy as we’ve made it no secret that we feel the school, (specifically Neil Kinnon) use bullying techniques with their teachers and staff. Additionally, we’ve mentioned before (as did a former teacher) how unwilling or incapable the school is in dealing with students emotional issues. Too many times the school has brushed under the carpet issues with students that require attention and/or reporting. If the school is not willing to follow the other laws that govern them, why would the DESE expect them to actually put into place (never mind implement) an anti-bullying prevention plan. We would also be interested in knowing what the required ‘staff training to create strategies to prevent and stop bullying’ included. We suspect that if it was done (which we doubt) that it was Kathy Kinnon (another bully in our opinion) reading off of a hand out. As a side note, check out how seriously Melrose took this new law in the Melrose FreePress. Unfortunately, we feel that this will be just another law that MVRCS is not held accountable to.