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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Charter Schools - Consolidation Request of Excel Academy Charter School, Excel Academy Charter School - Chelsea, and Excel Academy Charter School - Boston II

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
January 17, 2014

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We have received two requests from charter schools to consolidate separate charter schools under one charter. I recommend that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (Board) grant one of these requests and consolidate the charters for Excel Academy Charter School, Excel Academy Charter School - Chelsea, and Excel Academy Charter School - Boston II (collectively "the Excel charter schools") under a single charter. I am deferring to a future date the consolidation request made by the board of trustees of the Match Charter Public School and Match Community Day Charter Public School.

Background

Pursuant to G.L. c. 71, § 89(d), the Board may authorize "a single board of trustees to oversee more than one charter school provided . . . each school is issued its own charter." This structure is known as a network of charter schools. Currently, eight boards of trustees hold two or more charters and oversee networks of charter schools. A consolidation is an action by the Board to permit two or more separate charter schools within a network to operate as a single school, which allows for various operational efficiencies and benefits as outlined in further detail below. The Board has the authority to approve a consolidation and has done so once before, for Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (RPCS).

In February 2011, the Board granted two additional charters to the board of trustees of Roxbury Preparatory Charter School (RPCS). Because the board of trustees envisioned separate middle schools feeding into one high school, a model that was not compatible with the enrollment preferences in the charter school statute, the Board required the board of trustees to seek an amendment to consolidate the three charter schools. The Board also required the high school to maintain an entry point at ninth grade to allow for new enrollees who had not previously attended the middle schools.

In December 2011, the Board granted the consolidation request of the board of trustees of RPCS. The three schools operated by the board of trustees of RPCS became one school serving 1800 students in grades 5-12. The consolidation permitted the board of trustees to achieve its original vision and operate a middle school on three separate campuses with students then attending a single unified high school.

Since the RPCS consolidation, I have deferred action on consolidation requests by other charter school network boards of trustees to allow the Department time to fully analyze the challenges experienced by charter school networks and to develop policies and practices related to networks and multi-campus schools. The aim in this process has been to balance operational efficiencies along with an appropriate level of oversight and accountability. Our efforts have included the following:

  • The Department, in collaboration with the Executive Office of Education, applied for and received a grant and consultant support from the National Governors Association to examine issues related to oversight of networks of charter schools.
  • From January through June 2013, in partnership with the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, the Department convened a Charter School Network Working Group comprised of representatives from twelve charter school boards of trustees. This working group analyzed the existing operational constraints and developed policy recommendations in particular areas of concern.
  • The Board's Charter School Committee has reviewed and discussed issues related to networks of charter schools, most recently at its meeting on April 2013.

The proposed amendments to the charter school regulations that the Board released for public comment in December 2013 include provisions that clarify expectations for networks of charter schools. The Department is currently in the process of codifying policy and guidance to ensure appropriate oversight and operation of multiple charter schools or campuses that are overseen by a single board of trustees. This includes revisions to several guidance documents for charter schools-including the Audit Guide, the Fiscal Policies and Procedures Guide, and the Administrative and Governance Guide.

At this time, the Department has considered the policy implications of consolidation and documented the challenges presently experienced by networks of charter school under the current statutory and legal framework in Massachusetts. Based on this analysis and the lessons learned since the RPCS consolidation, consolidation appears to be a reasonable way to address many of the issues faced by boards of trustees overseeing multiple charter schools serving overlapping grades in the same geographic region. Accordingly, the Department solicited and accepted consolidation requests for consideration this past September. Other charter school network boards of trustees have indicated interest in consolidation but have opted to submit their requests at a future date.

Excel Academy Charter Schools

The Board awarded a charter to establish the Excel Academy Charter School in 2003. The original school served middle school students from Boston and Chelsea. Based upon its record of academic success and organizational viability, the Board granted the board of trustees two additional charters in 2011 to establish a middle school in Chelsea and a middle-high school in Boston. In 2011 and 2012, the board of trustees submitted expansion requests, which included the request to consolidate all three charter schools into a single school. In February 2013, the Board granted the schools additional seats and grades so that all three charter schools would serve students in grades 5 through 12.

 Excel Academy Charter SchoolExcel Academy Charter School - ChelseaExcel Academy Charter School - Boston II
Type of CharterCommonwealth
LocationEast BostonChelseaEast Boston
Regional/Non-regionalRegional1 Non-regionalNon-regional
Year Opened200320112012
Year Renewed2008N/AN/A
Grades Chartered5-12
Grades Implemented5-85-75-6
Maximum Enrollment448448448
Current Enrollment220168112
 
Mission StatementExcel Academy Charter School's mission is to prepare middle school students to succeed in high school and college, apply their learning to solve relevant problems, and engage productively in their communities.

In making my recommendation to consolidate the charters of the Excel charter schools, I considered the need for consolidation and the increased access to a successful educational program for families in Boston and Chelsea. The Department reviewed the amendment request and interviewed the board of trustees and leadership in detail regarding the consolidation request. The request is reasonable and consistent with the charter school statute and regulations.

Under a single charter for a regional school serving Boston and Chelsea, the board of trustees can realize efficiencies not currently available and simplify administrative processes duplicated over the three schools, such as lotteries for enrollment. The consolidation also will permit the school to assign students to the middle school campus nearest their home, thus reducing transportation costs for the host districts. The Department is confident that the material terms of the charters, including governance and leadership structures, will not change as a result of consolidation. The board of trustees has also committed to maintaining a middle school campus in Chelsea and backfilling vacancies through tenth grade, once the high school program is established.

The Department solicited comment regarding the proposed consolidation from the superintendents of Boston and Chelsea, the primary sending districts. No comments were received.

Because of the schools' academic success; organizational viability; and compliance with applicable state, federal, and local laws, I recommend that the Board consolidate the charter of the Excel charter schools under one charter for a single school serving 1344 students in grades 5 through 12 for a region including Boston and Chelsea. The limitation on enrolling students from Boston due to net school spending cap limitations that is currently in place will carry over into the consolidated charter. The amendment request for the Excel charter schools, the Department's review, and a motion for approval are attached for your consideration.

Attachments:

Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Correspondence from Excel Academy Charter Schools
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Excel Academy Charter Schools Amendment Request Summary
Download PDF Document  Download MS WORD Document
Excel Academy Charter Schools Selected Student Enrollment Demographics, Student Attrition Rates, Selected Academic Performance Data, and Five Year Financial Summary
 
Motion for Board action on Excel Academy Charter School

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Last Updated: January 24, 2014
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