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Lowell Community Charter Public School - Request for Approval of an Educational Management Services Contract

To:Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:May 20, 2010

At the February 2010 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, the Board voted to renew the charter of the Lowell Community Charter Public School (LCCPS). Because of our significant concerns about the school's academic performance, the Board placed the school on probation and imposed several conditions on the renewal. The conditions are:

  1. No later than March 10, 2010, the school shall submit a plan to reduce the school's maximum enrollment to 610 students and grade span to Kindergarten-grade 4 from Kindergarten-grade 8 no later than September 2011. No later than September 2011, the school's maximum enrollment shall be 610 and it shall serve grades Kindergarten through 4.

  2. No later than April 30, 2010, Lowell Community Charter Public School shall submit to the Charter School Office the following:
    1. a comprehensive self-evaluation that determines the strategies to be used to address academic underperformance and governance in the school, including, but not limited to:
      1. a possible contract with a management company with a proven track record;
      2. implementation of proven curricular and instructional programs;
      3. a comprehensive revamping of school leadership;

  3. the addition of members to the board of trustees with the skills and experience to implement systemic changes in leadership and programs.

    The evaluation must include an action plan with a timetable for the implementation of corrective actions, must set deadlines for the completion of key tasks, and must set clear and specific implementation benchmarks to allow the Charter School Office to monitor implementation.

  4. No later than June 30, 2010, Lowell Community Charter Public School shall have completed the process to receive approval from the Charter School Office for an Accountability Plan, including objectives and measures regarding academic success, organizational viability, and faithfulness to charter in alignment with the implementation benchmarks of the self-evaluation.

  5. By December of 2011, Lowell Community Charter Public School shall demonstrate that it is an academic success by:
    1. meeting academic growth targets in English language arts and mathematics, as established by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, or
    2. achieving Adequate Yearly Progress in the aggregate and for all statistically significant subgroups in English language arts and mathematics in 2010 and 2011, and
    3. by meeting the goals and objectives established in the school's Accountability Plan.

On March 9, 2010, LCCPS submitted a plan to reduce enrollment and grade span, as required by the first probationary condition. The plan commits the school to eliminating grades 7 and 8 and reducing enrollment to approximately 790 for 2010-11 and eliminating grades 5 and 6 and reducing enrollment to 610 students for 2011-12.

On April 29, 2010, LCCPS submitted a self-evaluation plan, as required by the second probationary condition. The plan states the school's agreement with the Department's assessment and outlines the school's proposal to engage an educational management company to provide comprehensive school management services. These services include the development and administration of the curriculum and education program for the school, all staffing decisions, and business administration.

The school's board of trustees solicited and reviewed proposals from three educational management organizations, and decided to enter into a contract with Renaissance School Services LLC. Under the proposed contract, Renaissance would manage substantially all aspects of the school's operation, subject to the oversight of the board of trustees in accordance with performance measures set forth in the contract. The school chose Renaissance because it has some experience with school turnarounds and has assured LCCPS that it will maintain the cultural diversity component that is integral to the school's mission and charter, while raising academic achievement.

The proposed contract creates the potential for the sweeping transformational change I contemplated in the probationary conditions of the school's renewal. The LCCPS board of trustees has the responsibility, as holder of the charter, to demonstrate that the partnership with Renaissance results in the school becoming an academic success and organizationally viable, while remaining faithful to the terms of its charter.

Under the charter school statute, M.G.L. c. 71, § 89 (k) (5), the Board must approve contracts between charter schools and entities from which they intend to procure substantially all educational services. The Department is still reviewing the technical and legal aspects of the proposed contract. After reviewing a draft of the contract from the school, we sent our initial comments back to the school, and we expect to receive a revised draft within the next two days. The school is working with us in good faith to clarify the contract terms before its board of trustees votes on the contract.

The contract should be finalized and signed within the next few weeks, to enable the school to implement major changes for the coming school year as we have directed it to do. Because time is of the essence, rather than waiting until the June 22nd meeting of the Board to present the final contract to you, I recommend that the Board vote to authorize me to approve the contract pending satisfactory completion of our review. The Board would delegate this authority to the commissioner under M.G.L. c. 15, s. 1F, para. 3:

The board may delegate its authority or any portion thereof to the commissioner whenever in its judgment such delegation may be necessary or desirable. The commissioner shall exercise such delegated powers and duties with the full authority of the board.

I propose to handle this matter in the same way as other charter matters that the Board has delegated to the commissioner. Specifically, when our review is completed, I will send a copy of the final contract to the Board and notify the Board in advance of my intended approval of the contract and the corresponding amendment to the school's charter. As with other delegated charter matters, a Board member may request that I place this matter on the agenda of the Board for discussion and action, presumably at the June 22nd meeting. The attached motion includes this proviso.

If you have questions or need additional information, please contact Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson, Mary Street, Director of Charter Schools, or me.

Last Updated: May 21, 2010
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