The Barnstable School Committee slammed the door on reconsideration of its decision not to renew the charter for the Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter Public School last night. "There will be no change," declared chairman Christopher Joyce in a move that would make any schoolyard bully smile.
In fact, the bullies have won this battle. Unpopular Superintendent of Schools Meg Mayo Brown and her collaborators on the school committee have seized control of the building that once housed Hyannis East Elementary School. The Horace Mann Charter School moved into that facility after HyEast was closed. The move was largely thanks to the efforts of then-school-committee-member Debra Dagwan. Ms. Dagwan is now a town councilor.
The Horace Mann school will remain open for the 2018-2019 school year but the energy is slowly draining away. If Dennis-Yarmouth could arrange transportation for Barnstable kiddos, there's a good chance they could pick up some school choice students this fall as families seek alternatives to the mortally wounded charter school.
The parents' group has launched an online petition - a nice gesture but an exercise in futility. The school committee spoke quite clearly last night - they will not renew the Horace Mann charter. Worse yet, there are no school committee seats up for election this fall and a recall election is a very high bar to reach. A recall would need to replace at least two of the four school committee members who voted to close the school. Once those board members were replaced, the new board would then need to renew the charter and remove the superintendent. This is not realistically achievable.
The sole option remaining to supporters of the charter school model is for them to petition for a Commonwealth Charter, which would create an entirely new entity that is separate from the Barnstable School District. They would have to find a new location for the school and have it fitted out in time to open in the fall of 2019. They would need to hire staff, establish an administrative infrastructure and complete all the other tasks required to open a brand new, stand-alone school district.
Even if they secure a Commonwealth Charter, there's no guarantee that the faculty would leave their secure jobs in the Barnstable Public Schools for a new venture.
We hope the parent group does try for a Commonwealth Charter. We hope they can recreate as much of the BCHMCPS culture in a new charter school as they can. We hope they can pull all of the school's 300 plus students out of the Barnstable Public School District - which will cost the school committee millions in charter choice tuition.
Last night's door-slam by the school committee is the end of the road for the Horace Mann school. However it doesn't have to be the end of the story.
The schoolyard bullies won this battle but the parents and school community can still go to war.
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