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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Request for Review: Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
February 16, 2011

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The Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School (PVCICS) is a Commonwealth charter school located in Hadley and serving a region comprised of 39 districts in Hamden, Hampshire, and Franklin counties. The school was chartered in February 2007 as a K-8 school with a maximum enrollment of 300 students, and it opened in September 2007. In the current school year, it has 199 students enrolled in grades K-4 and grades 6-7.

On July 12, 2010, PVCICS submitted a request to amend the school's charter to add 120 additional seats. On January 3, 2011, I notified the school that I had denied their request. I believe there is insufficient evidence at this time regarding the school's overall success with respect to academic performance, organizational viability, and faithfulness to its charter. The school is still in its first charter term and has not yet reached its maximum enrollment and grade span for which it was chartered. Last year's MCAS results were promising, but they reflect only one year of testing and a relatively small cohort of students. Next year the school will undergo a comprehensive evaluation by the Charter School Office in connection with its first charter renewal. I believe that the school's expansion request should be deferred until after the completion of the renewal evaluation.

This is the school's second request for an expansion since being chartered. In July 2008, after the school's first year of operation, the trustees requested an additional 300 seats and an extension of the grade span to K-12. I denied this earlier request, on the grounds that it was premature and that the design of the proposed high school program, to be run in conjunction with the Hadley Public Schools, was not sufficiently well defined.

The Board's charter school regulations [603 CMR 1.11(6)] state that "Should the Commissioner deny an amendment request, the charter school's board of trustees may seek review of the Commissioner's decision by the Board." On January 25, 2011, the school requested a review of my January 3 decision by the Board, and that request comes before you at the February 28 meeting. The Board's options are to:

  • Approve the school's amendment request, notwithstanding the Commissioner's objections;
  • Deny the amendment request; or
  • Take no formal action, in which case the Commissioner's denial stands.

Richard Alcorn, the school's executive director, spoke to the Board during the public comment period of the January 25 meeting. He and other representatives of the school will be present for the February 28 meeting and will make some additional brief remarks.

I am enclosing copies of the school's July 12, 2010, amendment request; my denial letter of January 3, 2011; and the school's January 5, 2011, request for a review by the Board. In accordance with our normal procedures, the superintendents and school committees in the school's region were given an opportunity to comment on the request. We received one letter in opposition to the request, from the Shutesbury School Committee, and that letter is also enclosed.

Enclosures



Last Updated: February 22, 2011
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