Board of Education Postpones Community Montessori Decision

In his first Board meeting, Starr makes recommendation to postpone charter vote.

The Board of Education postponed its today after Dr. Starr, in his first Board meeting, cautioned the Board about making a precedent that would guide future charter decisions.

One main question stalled the vote: how the school would comply with the state charter law provision's to be open to all students, including a lottery system if there were more applicants than spaces.

Laura Berthiaume (District 2) voiced the strongest objections on this issue, even after Patricia O'Neill (District 3) amended the action sheet to include a catchment area "to be determined" by both the school system and the applicant.

"I find it hard to believe that the administration would say no to a Crossway Community resident, that you lost the lottery," Berthiaume said, "I can't approve a catchment area 'to be defined', maybe down county consortium, maybe the lower county magnet immersion catchment area."

The Board's working definition for a catchment area during the discussion was a defined geographic area within the county where students of appropriate age for the school would have the opportunity to attend Community Montessori.

Later, Berthiaume questioned whether a waiver from the State Board to create such an area would really be creating an attendance area, i.e. Downcounty Consortium. Student Member of the Board Alan Xie would be not able to vote on an attendence area, given his current voting rights.

"Let's not forget its to be defined cooperatively between the school system and the applicant." Board President Christopher Barclay (District 4) said in support of O'Neill's amendment,  "No one on this Board would be interested in a restrictive area. I would never accept a catchment area that would be limited in such a way."

"I believe there is a leap of faith and there are some underlying concerns." O'Neill said, adding, "I believe this applicant is committed to working with us."

Two additional board members, Michael Durso (District 5) and Judy Docca (District 1) said they would not approve the application, while, Board Vice President Shirley Brandman (At-Large) said she believed that the second application from Community Montessori had met the educational design and innovation standards required by the charter law.

The outcome appeared to be a 4 to 3 vote, not counting Xie.

At that point the new superintendent spoke up, in what he described as "the eleventh hour and fifty-nineth minute of this."

"You're in, no-pun intended, uncharted waters," Starr said, "I am not clear, personally, why this issue had not come up before. There are significant implications that have to be explored. "

Starr suggested that the final vote on the charter application be postponed, and more consideration be given to how students would be admitted to the school.

The new superintendent expressed support for the Community Montessori application, and said he was in favor of charters that "added value" for a school district.

"There are some that consider charters a panacea for all that ails public education, but I am not in that camp," he added.

After some discussion of how the amendment put forward by O'Neill could be revoked by Robert's Rules of Order, the board postponed the vote until July 25. 

Kathleen Guinan, CEO of Crossway Community, Inc and one of the applicants, said that they are working as partners with the school system.

"Our mission is to promote community, creativity and learning for all families," she said, noting that Crossways has always used the idea of the Downcounty when thinking about where their students would come from. 

David Bachrach July 07, 2011 at 09:26 PM
Great coverage - thank you!


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