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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools — Report on Conditions for UP Academy Charter School of Springfield and Recommendation on Waiver of 19-Month Opening Requirement

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
June 17, 2016

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At its meeting in February 2015, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) voted to grant a charter to UP Academy Charter School of Springfield (UP Springfield), a Horace Mann III charter school, to begin serving 800 students in grades 6-8 in the 2016-17 school year. At the time of my recommendation for the UP Springfield, the Department identified that the Springfield School Committee approved the charter application conditioned upon approval by the board of directors of the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP). The Board awarded UP Springfield a charter explicitly conditioned upon the Springfield School Committee and SEZP voting their unconditional approval of the school. The two conditions are described below in more detail. Additional information regarding SEZP is provided under separate cover.

This memorandum provides a report on the progress the school has made in meeting the conditions that the Board imposed upon the charter. The memorandum also outlines the school's request for a waiver, which would allow the school to open more than 19 months after the award of its charter, as required by 603 CMR 1.00. I recommend that the Board vote to remove the conditions from UP Springfield's charter and to approve the waiver request.

Report on Conditions

Below is a summary of the school's progress toward meeting the two conditions that the Board imposed in February 2015.

Condition 1: No later than November 1, 2015, certification must be provided that the Board of Directors of the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, Inc. has voted to support the UP Academy Charter School of Springfield as a Horace Mann charter school.

Status: Met
On October 7, 2015, the board of trustees of UP Springfield submitted evidence that on June 23, 2015, the Board of Directors of the SEZP voted to support UP Springfield.

Condition 2: No later than November 25, 2015, certification must be provided that the Springfield School Committee has acknowledged that vote of support and voted to approve UP Academy Charter School of Springfield unconditionally.

Status: Met
On October 7, 2015, the board of trustees of UP Springfield submitted evidence that on June 25, 2015, the Springfield School Committee acknowledged the SEZP's vote of support and voted to approve UP Springfield unconditionally.

Based upon the evidence presented above, I recommend the Board vote to remove the conditions.

Request for a Waiver

On December 18, 2015, the board of trustees of UP Springfield requested a waiver of 603 CMR 1.04(6)(c), which requires charter schools to have students attending the school within 19 months of the date the charter was awarded. The requirement states that a

charter granted by the Board shall be effective for five years, beginning July 1st of the first fiscal year in which the charter school enrolls students, unless revoked pursuant to M.G.L. c. 71, § 89, and 603 CMR 1.12. If no students are attending a charter school within 19 months from the date the charter was granted, the charter will be null and void, unless a waiver and extension is granted by the Board according to the process outlined in 603 CMR 1.03(2).

603 CMR 1.04(6)(c).

The charter school regulations, 603 CMR 1.00, provide uniform rules and procedures governing the establishment of charter schools. The regulations also grant the Board the power to waive certain provisions. The regulation states that the

Board may waive provisions of 603 CMR 1.00 for good cause. If a charter applicant or charter school board of trustees makes a written request for a waiver, the Board may waive the applicability of one or more provisions of 603 CMR 1.00. These waivers shall be granted only under circumstances the Board deems exceptional and such waivers shall be granted only to the extent allowed by law. All such requests from the charter applicant or a board of trustees must:
  1. be in writing, signed by the waiver applicant;
  2. specify the provisions of 603 CMR 1.00 to be waived, the duration of the waiver, and the circumstances to which the waiver applies and the specific reason why a waiver is sought;
  3. include a certification that the waiver applicant has made a good faith effort to comply with said provisions; and
  4. be accompanied by supporting documentation considered sufficient by the Board to support the special circumstances or the need for relief.

603 CMR 1.03(2).

The school's board of trustees is seeking to defer the opening of this Horace Mann charter school by at least one year. Further, the school's board of trustees proposes that if the school has not opened in five years, at the start of the 2021-2022 school year the charter will be null and void.

This request stems from negotiations between the school's board of trustees, Springfield Public Schools, SEZP, and UP Education Network, the education management organization for UP Springfield. An agreement (memorandum of understanding or MOU) between the school's board of trustees and the Springfield School Committee includes this waiver request and describes deferring the opening of UP Springfield. The MOU was approved by the school's board of trustees and the Springfield School Committee in June 2015. The MOU states, in relevant part, as follows:

Whereas, in 2015, UP intends to apply for a waiver from the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in accordance with 603 CMR1.03(2), to defer the opening of the charter school by at least one year, and if, or until, the board votes to open the school; and

Whereas, the charter will be implemented at a school currently under the managerial and operational control of Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, Inc. ("SEZP") pursuant to that certain Memorandum of Understanding effective as of December 4, 2014, by and among the Springfield School Committee on behalf of Springfield Public Schools, the Superintendent of the Springfield Public Schools, SEZP, and Massachusetts DESE, and to be managed by UP Education Network, Inc. ("UPEN") pursuant to a Memorandum of Understanding between UPEN and SEZP;

Further, on January 6, 2016, the SEZP board voted to restart John F. Kennedy Middle School, a Level 4 school, as UP Academy Kennedy, and to partner with the UP Education Network to first operate the school under contract with SEZP.

On December 17, 2015, the school's board of trustees met, discussed, and voted at a meeting held in compliance with the Open Meeting Law to make this waiver request. The Springfield School Committee voted to approve this request, as indicated in the MOU. The president of the Springfield Education Association, Timothy T. Collins, has informed the Department that the teachers union does not object to a waiver of the timeline for the opening of UP Springfield as a Horace Mann charter school, as long as any amendment to the UP Springfield charter is contingent on UP Springfield abiding by the Springfield Empowerment Zone teacher contract and that UP Springfield would continue to be a neighborhood school.

I recommend that the Board vote to waive for one year the requirement found in 603 CMR 1.04(6)(c), which requires schools to have students attending the school within 19 months of the charter award, and amend the charter granted to UP Springfield accordingly. Such waiver and amendment, however, will be conditioned on UP Springfield demonstrating, before it opens under the charter that the Board granted on February 24, 2015, that it will abide by the relevant terms of the Springfield Empowerment Zone teacher contract and that it will operate as a neighborhood school (per the Springfield Public Schools definition of a neighborhood school) to the extent permitted by state law. Voting to approve this waiver provides needed flexibility for this school and signals support for the efforts of the Springfield Public Schools, the SEZP, the local collective bargaining unit, and UP Education Network, Inc.

I further recommend that the Board delegate to me authority to grant an additional waiver for one year if such a request is submitted by the board of trustees of UP Springfield with the approval of the Springfield School Committee and the local collective bargaining unit. Such additional waiver would be granted only if the requirements of 603 CMR 1.03(2) are met, including, but not limited to, the requirement that UP Springfield make a good faith effort to comply with the requirement that the school open no later than September 2017.

A motion is attached for your consideration.

**************

If you have any questions or require additional information, please contact Cliff Chuang, Associate Commissioner, at 781-338-3222; Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner, at 781-338-6500; or me.


Enclosures:

Download PDF Document  Download Word Document
Request of UP Springfield, dated December 18, 2015
Minutes of the Board of Directors of the Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, Inc., dated June 23, 2015
Minutes of the Springfield School Committee, dated June 25, 2015
Agreement between the Springfield School Committee and UP Springfield, dated July 22, 2015


Last Updated: June 20, 2016
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