Parents thwart Rhode Island school board plan to undercut successful charter school

Oct 9, 2013 by

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – The Rhode Island Board of Education is attempting to “spin” its way out of a major public relations blunder, initiated by a pair of state teacher union leaders who sit on the board.

At Monday’s night meeting, the state school board was scheduled to discuss the possibility of rescinding a recent five-year charter extension to the Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, one of Rhode Island’s top schools.

About 150 charter-supporting parents, students and teachers crowded into the meeting to listen in on the board’s discussion and potential vote, but neither occurred. The controversy was over almost as quickly as it had begun.

The Providence Journal
reports that “board Chairwoman Eva-Marie Mancuso immediately asked for a motion to withdraw the charter item from the agenda. The board voted unanimously to do just that to the sound of thunderous applause from audience members.”

The four board members who originally offered the “rescind” motion were forced into damage control mode. Those board members – two of whom are officials with Rhode Island teachers union – claimed they never intended to strip the academy of its charter.

“They simply wanted the full board to reconsider a July 15 vote allowing the school to expand from three schools to seven,” the Journal reports.

Board member Lawrence Purtill, whose full time job is spent as president of the National Education Association Rhode Island, said he only wanted the board to have oversight of the academy’s decision to build the new schools.

Board member Colleen Callahan, who works for the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, also claimed “the idea of multiplying sites was the reason for calling for this (now cancelled) vote.”

OK. So what would be the problem with replicating undeniable success and adding a few more of these schools? Oh, that’s right. They don’t employ union teachers, so they don’t provide the union with dues revenue.

The Providence Journal reports the July 15 board vote “to renew the school’s charter also included an amendment to add schools.” The paper notes that academy leaders have been very upfront that their expansion plans only involve buildings, not students.

The charter academy plans to stay at its 2,360-pupil cap, while redesigning its program to add a couple middle schools and a high school.

It’s possible the four union-friendly board members didn’t understand that was part of the board’s July vote. If that’s the case, it raises questions about their competence and their ability to help lead Rhode Island’s public education system.

The more likely scenario is that unionists were hoping to pull a fast one on the academy.

That wouldn’t be the first time teacher union leaders and supporters have tried to undercut the well-loved academy.

Michael Magee, the CEO of the charter group that owns Blackstone Valley Prep, told the Journal the school is continually “inundated with politically motivated harassment.”

“Every year, we have bills before the General Assembly to shut this school down,” Magee said, according to the Journal.

Thankfully, the unionists didn’t succeed with their self-serving plan – this time. That’s largely due to the public’s vocal defense of the charter academy.

“These teachers give us their all, so we wanted to give them our all back,” said parent Lujean Johnson, who attended Monday night’s board meeting.

A recent Providence Journal editorial likely spoke for many of those parents when it advised state lawmakers “to remove clearly conflicted positions – members who must put selfish economic interests ahead of Rhode Island’s students – from the board.”

Parents thwart Rhode Island school board plan to undercut successful charter school – powered by Education Action Group Foundation, Inc..

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