December 10, 2018
BARNSTABLE – Even though the Barnstable Community Horace Mann Charter School’s charter was not renewed during the summer, teachers are hoping to continue a similar educational model by converting it to an innovation school.
Innovation schools have a curriculum similar to charter schools but fall under the oversight of the community’s school committee.
In June, the school committee voted not to renew the charter, which expires at the end of the 2018-19 school year, so it could oversee the school along with the superintendent.
Parents and school staff fought to have the school committee reverse its decision and renew the charter to no avail.
An 11-member innovation school planning committee has been working to develop a plan for the school and application.
“That application will go forward to the school committee for discussion, deliberation and a vote,” said Meg Mayo-Brown, the Barnstable Superintendent of Schools and planning committee member. “If the school committee approves the application the innovation school can have that status for up to five years.”
Innovation schools were developed in Massachusetts under former Governor Deval Patrick and about 40 within the state.
After the charter was not renewed, teachers from the Horace Mann school proposed continuing the curriculum through the innovation school process.
The planning committee, which also includes teachers and school committee member Barbara Dunn, has been meeting regularly.
“The teachers from the school have been very interested in pursuing this option because what it does is it gives them a framework to continue much of the autonomy that they experienced through the Horace Mann charter around curriculum and instruction, professional development and things of that nature,” Mayo-Brown said. “It has been a very exciting process to work with them.”
The major difference between Horace Mann charter schools and innovation schools is governance. Under Horace Mann charters the State Board of Education provides oversight of the schools through a board of trustees. Local school committees and superintendent provide oversight for innovation schools.
Mayo-Brown has told educators that they can continue the work they have been doing with students under the innovation model, and that her role is to support them in that effort.
“What’s going on for students at the Horace Mann Community Charter School is terrific in terms of teaching and learning, and I want to see those practices continue,” Mayo-Brown said. “And I want to support the efforts that the teachers and the support staff are doing. I feel very confident that that work can continue under an innovation school.”
Student enrollment is also handled differently under the innovation school model. As a Horace Mann charter, the school had to follow strict guidelines around running a lottery for admission into the program.
“An innovation school doesn’t have to follow such a strict process,” Mayo-Brown said.
There would need to be a lottery if there are more admission requests than available seats.
“They can also accept students more on a rolling basis if there are seats available, where in a Horace Mann that was more difficult and more challenging to do,” Mayo-Brown said.
Students who are currently attending would have priority in staying at the school for the 2019-20 school year.
“If there are additional seats available then that would open up to all seven villages for families to request that their child attend there,” Mayo-Brown said.
The planning committee is targeting a school committee review for sometime in January. A public hearing would then be held before a potential school committee vote at the end of January or early February.
Mayo-Brown said they are looking to have the vote as soon as possible to better inform families ahead of the 2019-20 school year.