AMSA charter renewed–but with conditions


Steven Smyth

AMSA must meet four conditions set down by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

An email from the AMSA Board of Trustees was sent to the school community on May 14, informing stakeholders of the successful renewal of the school’s charter.

The email, signed by BoT Chair Craig Holbrook, stated that board members were excited that “the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has renewed our charter for the second time.”

What the email did not mention, however, is that AMSA is the only one of nine charter schools in the commonwealth to have its charter renewed with conditions.

In a DESE memorandum issued by Commissioner Mitchell D. Chester and dated March 13, it was stated that AMSA’s renewal is “explicitly conditioned” and that four goals, all dealing with administrative structure and BoT procedure, must be met.

Failure to meet the conditions could, according to Dr. Chester, “result in the Board placing AMSA on probation, revoking its charter, or imposing additional conditions on its charter.”

“I wouldn’t see it as anything surprising,” interim Executive Director Dr. Mary Ann DeMello said. “It is part of the obvious growth [of the school].”

Dr. Joseph McCleary, who is taking over as AMSA’s permanent executive director at the end of the current school year, was very optimistic about the situation and said that he did not see any concern with the conditions.

“It is possible for the Commissioner of Education to recommend to the Board of Education that there be certain conditions,” Dr. McCleary said. “In a sense, that’s just advice.”

The AMSA Board of Trustees met on April 7 to select the school's next executive director.
Chris Ludlam
The AMSA Board of Trustees met on April 7 to select the school’s next executive director.

AMSA must explicitly meet certain criteria. First, until further notice, the school must submit to DESE the BoT’s “agendas, materials, and minutes prior to each board meeting.”

By June 30, the school must provide to DESE “an evaluation of its leadership structure, an organizational chart with accompanying job descriptions, and a plan to fully staff the administrative structure.”

By Oct. 31, the BoT “must have completed a comprehensive self-evaluation of its practices and its capacity.”

And by the end of the calendar year, the BoT “must engage in training conducted by an external consultant, acceptable to and approved in advance by the Department, on the roles and responsibilities of a board of trustees for a charter school and on the Open Meeting Law.”

“There are things we need to do, but nothing alarming –dotting some i’s and crossing some t’s,” Dr. DeMello said.

Both Dr. DeMello and Dr. McCleary said they see the conditions as a way for the school to improve—people sometimes forget that AMSA, at just 10 years old, is still a baby in comparison to other established charter schools.

“For a young school, you’ve done pretty well,” Dr. DeMello said.

Dr. DeMello added that, with the charter renewal process occurring at five-year intervals, the school has only had a chance to prove itself twice.

Email requests seeking comment from Mr. Holbrook were not returned.