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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Gloucester Community Arts Charter School - Report on Probationary Conditions

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
December 10, 2010

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At its special meeting on October 1, 2010, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education placed the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School (GCACS) on probation until December 21, 2010, and directed GCACS to meet twelve probationary conditions by that date. The Board directed the Commissioner to review and report on GCACS's success or lack of success in meeting the terms of probation and its charter. The Board further directed the Commissioner to recommend whether the school should retain its charter or whether the charter should be summarily revoked.

Listed below are the twelve probationary conditions and a description of the school's progress in meeting those conditions, based on documentation that the Department received and reviewed as of December 6, 2010. Staff from the Department's Charter School Office will be making a site visit to the school on December 10, 2010. It is our understanding that the school's permanent building has been completed and it is now in use.

At the December 21 meeting, I will provide you with an updated status report, based on any developments since December 6 as well as the site visit. At that time I will also present my recommendation to the Board as to the school's probationary status. In the meantime, if you need any additional information, please contact me or Associate Commissioner Jeff Wulfson.

Condition 1. By November 24, 2010, GCACS must obtain approval by the Attorney General's Office (AGO) of a compliance plan addressing the school's violations of G.L. c. 149, §§ 44A-44M; G.L. c. 7, § 38A½-38O; and G.L. c. 149, § 44(E)(4), as described in the AGO's letters of September 15, 2010 and September 22, 2010. As indicated by the AGO in its letter dated September 22, 2010, such plan must address at a minimum bids on remaining construction work, a promise of and actual compliance with the public construction bidding and prevailing wage laws, a commitment to file frequent reports with the AGO regarding such compliance, a training plan for the school's administrators and board of trustees regarding public construction bidding laws and procurement of goods and services, an amendment to the school's current lease to ensure that the school's landlords are bound by the school's obligations under its compliance plan, and any other remedial measures as required by the AGO.

Status: The school's compliance plan was incorporated into a Final Judgment by Consent, approved by the AGO on November 24, 2010. In this document, a copy of which is attached, the school acknowledges its past violations of the Commonwealth's public design and construction statutes, and commits to various remedial actions to be overseen by the AGO. The Final Judgment by Consent still needs to be submitted to and approved by a Superior Court judge.

Condition 2. On or before October 15, 2010, GCACS must address directly with the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) the procurement of a contract with FHO Partners LLC and the procurement of a lease with Cape Ann Medical Office Building, LLC. These issues were raised by the OIG in a September 17, 2010 letter to the Commissioner. GCACS must provide to the Charter School Office a copy of all such communications to and from the OIG within a reasonable period of time, and no later than 48 hours after such communications are sent or received.

Status: The school has provided us with copies of its correspondence with OIG relating to this matter. We invited OIG to provide comments on the status of these discussions.

Condition 3. GCACS must register for and participate in the Charter School Procurement program offered by the Office of the Inspector General in November 2010.

Status: The school's executive director participated in the Charter School Procurement program on November 16-17, 2010.

Condition 4. GCACS must register for and participate in the first available program offered by the Office of the Inspector General for the Massachusetts Certified Public Purchasing Official Program, specifically for Public Contracting Overview, Supplies and Services Contracting, and Design and Construction Contracting.

Status: The school's executive director participated in the Public Contracting Overview program on November 2-4, 2010, and the Design and Construction Contracting seminar on November 30-December 2, 2010. He was unable to attend the Supplies and Services Contracting program on October 19-21, 2010, because he had not yet taken the prerequisite Public Contracting Overview, but he has indicated that he will register for the first offering of the Supplies and Services Contracting program in 2011.

Condition 5. On or before October 15, 2010, GCACS must submit to the Charter School Office an updated budget and cash flow statement for fiscal year 2011, reflecting the number of enrolled students as of October 1, 2010. GCACS must also submit its October 1 SIMS report no later than October 15, 2010. GCACS must submit additional updates as required by the Charter School Office.

Status: The school submitted an updated budget on October 8, 2010, and submitted its October 1 SIMS enrollment data on October 14, 2010.

Condition 6. On or before October 8, 2010, GCACS must submit to the Charter School Office an updated school leadership plan, identifying how the duties previously assigned to the "director of education," its head of school, will be managed during the current year.

Status: The school submitted an updated leadership plan on October 8, 2010. Some additional information was requested by the Department and provided by the school subsequent to that date. The school has indicated its intent to hire a new Director of Program during the month of December, who will assume some of the responsibilities previously assigned to the Director of Education. The school has also engaged consultants to assist with curriculum development.

Condition 7. On or before October 8, 2010, GCACS must submit a revised school calendar and a transportation plan to the Charter School Office for approval, such calendar and transportation plan having been adopted by the school's board of trustees. Such school calendar must include no less than 185 school days, allowing five days for possible closing due to snow days or other exigencies, and GCACS must provide at least 180 school days for its students.

Status: The school submitted a revised school calendar and transportation plan on October 8, 2010. Some additional information was requested by the Department and provided by the school subsequent to that date. I have approved both the revised calendar and the transportation plan.

Condition 8. GCACS must establish and provide to the Charter School Office a schedule through at least December 2010 of regular meetings of its board of trustees to occur no less frequently than every other week. GCACS must provide the Charter School Office with notice, including an agenda, of all meetings of its board of trustees at the same time it gives such notice pursuant to the open meeting law. GCACS must provide minutes of all such meetings to the Charter School Office within a reasonable period of time and in any event no later than 48 hours after such minutes are prepared. In providing such minutes, GCACS should note whether the board of trustees has approved the minutes and, if not, should provide an approved copy within a reasonable period of time and in any event no later than 48 hours after such minutes are approved.

Status: On October 8, 2010, the school provided a proposed schedule of trustee meetings for the following dates: October 19; November 2, 16, 23, 30; December 14, 28. (Some of these dates were subsequently changed.) The school has been providing the Department with copies of meeting notices, agendas, and minutes.

Condition 9. By November 24, 2010, to strengthen its membership, the board of trustees of GCACS must recruit and submit to the Charter School Office for approval new members with expertise in public administration, finance, real estate, and law. GCACS must notify the Charter School Office within a reasonable period of time but in any event no later than 48 hours after a member of the board of trustees resigns or otherwise leaves the school's board of trustees.

Status: On November 23, the school's board of trustees submitted the nominations of Arthur Beane and James Caviston to serve on the board. Dr. Beane is a retired teacher, principal, and college instructor with extensive experience in the area of special education. Mr. Caviston has a background in law, finance, and management. He has practiced as an attorney, served as the CFO of a private corporation, and currently heads a non-profit organization.

Condition 10. The board of trustees and school leadership of GCACS must participate in trainings regarding the state ethics law, the public records law, and the open meeting law. By November 24, 2010, GCACS must provide to the Charter School Office an outline of that training, the identity and expertise of the trainers, and the records of attendance.

Status: Attorney Elka Sachs of Krokidas & Bluestein provided training on the state ethics and public records laws on November 2, 2010. Jonathan Sclarsic of the Attorney General's Office provided training on the open meeting law on November 15, 2010. Records of both programs have been submitted to the Department.

Condition 11. GCACS promptly and effectively must communicate with the Charter School Office regarding any and all significant matters within a reasonable period of time but in any event no later than 48 hours after the occurrence. GCACS must report to the Charter School Office any and all communications made or received by or on behalf of the school with any government audit, investigative, or law enforcement agency within a reasonable period of time of that communication but in any event no later than 48 hours after the communication. GCACS must copy the Charter School Office on such written communications sent by or on behalf of the school and send a copy of all such written communications received by or on behalf of the school within a reasonable period of time but in any event no later than 48 hours after the communication. GCACS must provide a report and copies to the Charter School Office of all such communications that occurred prior to its probation no later than October 8, 2010.

Status: The school has reported on two Open Meeting Law complaints, the first submitted by Kathleen Clancy to the AGO on October 6, 2010, and the second submitted by Jason Grow to the board of trustees on November 20, 2010. We have not received any AGO findings with respect to either case.

Condition 12. GCACS must report all changes in staff to the Charter School Office within a reasonable period of time of knowledge of the change but in any event no later than 48 hours after knowledge of the change.

Status: The school has reported on several staffing changes, including a new contract with Maxim Healthcare for school nursing services; the hiring of two part-time teachers (for fine arts and music); and a contract with RL Consulting for a part-time temporary office manager.


Last Updated: December 13, 2010
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