Barnstable Horace Mann Charter Parents Push Back

On-line petition is just the start
The Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter School on Bearse's Way in Hyannis (BPS photo)

Parents and stakeholders at the Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter Public School have commenced their campaign to save the school's Horace Mann charter, which was voted for non-renewal by the Barnstable School Committee last month.

For starters, the group as launched an on-line petition appealing to the Barnstable School Committee to renew the school's charter for another five years.  The group's other options may include a recall petition against certain school committee members and applying to the state for a Commonwealth Charter.  A Commonwealth Charter would create an independent school similar to Sturgis Charter Public School and Cape Cod Lighthouse Charter School - a move that would likely cost the Town of Barnstable millions in charter choice tuition.

Many people believe that the school committee's concerns over governance and the expressed plan to convert the Horace Mann charter to Innovation School status is no more than a power grab by unpopular Barnstable Superintendent Meg Mayo Brown.  

The Horace Mann Charter School was moved to its present location on Bearse's Way after the Hyannis East Elementary School was closed.  Thanks in no small part to the efforts of then-school-committee-member and current Town Councilor Debra Dagwan, the Horace Mann Charter was moved to the Hyannis East campus so that the neighborhood would continue to have a school for the many high needs families in close proximity to the campus.

Parents have expressed their intent to attend Monday's school committee meeting to voice their objections to the vote to let the Horace Mann charter expire in 2019.

Full Text of Petition - Click Here To Sign the Petition

We, the undersigned demand that the Barnstable School Committee revokes and reconsiders its vote and supports BCHMCPS to be able to continue to serve its high need and ELL heavy population as a Horace Mann charter public school.

Fifteen years ago the Barnstable Public School District nominated Marstons Mills Elementary School (now West Villages) to be a Horace Mann Charter Public School. Contrary to other, albeit independent, Commonwealth Charter schools, Horace Mann Charter schools operate as a public school district within a district. The state approves and grants the charter that includes the mission, vision and specific operational requirements. Enrollment is through a public application process through which if more applications are received than seats available, an equitable lottery is held. These schools are directly accountable to the state by submitting an annual report and a rigorous review process by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education to prove faithfulness to the charter, fiscal viability and academic success. These schools also need to go through a just as rigorous state renewal process every five years with the approval of the teachers' union and local school committee. An independent Board of Trustees ensures the direct oversight of the school and laterally works with the local school committee. In return, the school has autonomy over academic and fiscal decisions to best serve its students' needs. 

The school was moved to its current location during the town's redistricting as the school prepared for its first charter renewal in 2009. The redistricting involved the closure of three school buildings to accommodate for the then-dropping student population in the region. Birth rates in the region at the time were already indicating an influx of students in coming years. The school has attracted families from all villages of Barnstable, even from outside the district until the out-of-district option for BCHMCPS was revoked by the School Committee. The move into the new, smaller building at the Hyannis East location reduced the number of seats available, and increased the ratio of high needs and ELL students. 

Despite these odds, the school has managed to keep good standing on a state level academically as well as fiscally, and ranks the highest within the district in math and only 2% points short from highest, ranking second in ELA, while competing with highest ratio in English Language Learner populations among Barnstable elementary schools. 

The key to the success of BCHMCPS is the governance of the school, and it is the governance of the school that the School Committee cited as the main reason for not supporting the renewal of the charter. The governance model of BCHMCPS allows all key stakeholders to be part of the decision making process, coupled with individual and organizational responsibility. In other words, the teachers in the classroom with high needs and ELL students are able to directly assess the needs of the students, and they have a say in the decision making and governance so the students can truly reach their highest potential. 

On June 6, 2018 after a majority vote supporting the renewal of the charter within the Barnstable Teachers Association, four out of the five Barnstable District School Committee members voted against the renewal of BCHMCPS. It came down to the votes of the five committee members, whom never once visited the school or attended a board meeting (only once did a current School Committee member attend a board meeting, and he did so while running for office).


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