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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Additional Information Regarding the Mattahunt School in Boston

To:
Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
From:
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
Date:
December 9, 2016

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This memo responds to questions arising from the presentation at the November 2016 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education regarding the Mattahunt Elementary School in Boston (Mattahunt). The Board's questions related to possible outcomes once a school has been designated "under review," and the composition of the Mattahunt local stakeholder group.

A. Information Regarding Level 4 Schools Placed "Under Review"

During the last few years, I have placed several Level 4 schools "under review." I have used this term to signal my deep concern for the status of the educational programs at these schools. These are schools that had been in Level 4 status for three or more years and had made modest progress at best.

When I notify a Superintendent that a Level 4 school is placed "under review," I request that the Superintendent develop a plan that will provide significantly better outcomes for students. Generally, the Superintendent is provided a short period of time - usually 30 days - to submit a plan, and is notified that if the plan is not sufficient to lead to successful school turnaround, I am committed to using the means at my disposal, including but not limited to state receivership, to secure a better educational future for the students at the school.

Superintendents have employed different responses to being notified that a Level 4 school has been placed under review. Indeed, while I identify some elements that would provide confidence that the plan for the school would be successful, I am open to various approaches to dramatically increasing the pace of improvement. For example, the development of the Springfield Empowerment Zone came about as a result of three middle schools in Springfield being placed "under review."

The Dearborn School (Dearborn) in Boston provides another example. In September 2014, I placed the Dearborn under review. As a result, Superintendent McDonough developed a plan that included lengthening the school day, increasing the amount of professional development for staff, and engaging BPE to serve as an in-district receiver for the school. I was satisfied that this approach would lead to improved educational opportunities for students and, accordingly, the "under review" designation was removed, and the school was not designated chronically underperforming.

In September 2016, I placed two schools under review: Mattahunt and the High School of Commerce in Springfield (Commerce). The schools had been designated Level 4 schools since 2012 and 2010, respectively. Despite the efforts that school and district officials had made, it was apparent from the 2016 accountability data that academic outcomes for students were not improving and that the conditions for successful school turnaround were not in place at either school.

In Springfield, Superintendent Warwick worked with the Springfield School Committee, Springfield Empowerment Zone Partnership, Inc. (SEZP), and the teachers union to add Commerce to the Empowerment Zone. As you know, the School Committee and SEZP voted to accept this recommendation. Based on these respective votes, I removed the "under review" designation for Commerce and kept the school in Level 4 status. SEZP leaders will now guide the school through a thoughtful redesign process that will include direct and ongoing community input in order to develop and implement a new and substantially more robust turnaround plan for the school.

In Boston, Superintendent Chang recommended to the Boston School Committee that it close the Mattahunt School, give enrolled students preference for seats in higher performing schools, and open an early childhood center at that site. The School Committee voted to adopt the Superintendent's recommendation. At our November Board meeting, Donna Muncey, Deputy Superintendent, and Mary Driscoll, Instructional Superintendent, addressed the Board to describe the basis for Superintendent Chang's recommendation. Based on the School Committee's vote, I removed the "under review" designation for the Mattahunt and directed Superintendent Chang to provide me within 30 days an addendum to the Mattahunt's turnaround plan that will address closing procedures in the school, with a particular focus on the supports that will be provided to the Mattahunt families. I will share the addendum with the Board once I receive it.

For your information, I have included the following letters:

Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 1: Letters dated 9/30/2016 and 11/9/2016 to Superintendent Warwick regarding Commerce.
Download MS WORD Document
Attachment 2: Letters dated 9/30/2016 and 11/28/2016 to Superintendent Chang regarding Mattahunt.

B. The Mattahunt Local Stakeholder Group

During the November 2016 Board meeting, there was a question about the Local Stakeholder Group (LSG) that was convened in 2012 in connection with the school's Level 4 turnaround plan. The Mattahunt LSG met four times: 10/25/12, 11/6/12, 11/17/12, and 11/27/12. The members of the LSG included:

  1. Karyl Resnick, ESE
  2. Rev. Gregory Groover, School Committee
  3. Donalee Dixon, Union Designee
  4. Jennifer Marks, School Administrator
  5. Lunine Pierre Jerome, Teacher
  6. Trisha Lee Raymond, Teacher
  7. Reina O'Marde, Parent
  8. Angela Washington, Parent
  9. Susan Bonaiuto, Workforce Development
  10. Chris Sumner, Workforce Development
  11. Darryl Elow, Social Service Representative
  12. Brenda Powers, EEC Representative
  13. Marie St. Fleur, Community Member
  14. Albert Taylor, Jr, Academic Superintendent, Boston Public Schools

A LSG for a Level 4 school is a statutorily created body. G.L. c. 69, § 1J (b). The Superintendent convenes a LSG for the purpose of soliciting recommendations prior to the creation of the turnaround plan for the school. The LSG is required to provide its recommendations regarding the turnaround plan to the Superintendent within 45 days of its initial meeting. Once the LSG makes its recommendations, its statutory role has been completed.

Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston will be at the Board meeting on December 20 to respond to your questions.



Last Updated: December 13, 2016
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