State Says Mystic Valley Regional Lacks Transparency, Denies Expansion
Citing a “clear record of insularity and opaque decision making,” officials also placed remedial conditions on the school's charter, the Boston Globe reports. Chairman and Malden City Councillor Neil Kinnon suggests the move is political.
A request to expand Mystic Valley Regional Charter School's student body was denied by state education officials last month, according to an article by Boston Globe's Brenda J. Buote
Citing a “clear record of insularity and opaque decision making,” [Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner] Mitchell D. Chester last month placed conditions on the school’s charter and denied Mystic Valley’s request to increase student enrollment.
The Globe reports Chester told education officials in a Feb. 8 memo that the school “has not consistently operated with transparency or been accessible to all stakeholders.”
He further observed that five school trustees had served for 12 or more years and were involved in "day-to-day management of the school," contrary to state guidelines.
The report also cites an analysis by Class Measures that says the school's board of trustees "may have regularly discussed matters in executive session that do not fall within the allowable purposes outline in the state's Open Meeting Law."
While the school's charter was renewed, administrators must now submit all meeting agendas and minutes for review by state education officials, as well as provide any further information as requested, according to a memo penned by Chester.
The school must also expand its board and impose term limits on its members.
Mystic Valley Board Chairman Neil Kinnon, also a Malden city councillor, suggested that the commissioner's decision was political. The same report also includes praise for the school's adherence to its founding charter, high test scores and parental satisfaction.
Kinnon pointed to other charter schools with long-sitting board members - and less academic success - that he said were not targetted for similar scrutiny.
The commissioner cites a number of unidentified complaints from parents in his decision to deny the school's request to expand, though the Class Measures review also details an 89.5 percent satisfaction rate from surveyed parents.
"Mystic Valley is an academic success, faithful to its charter and organizationally viable according to the [report]," Kinnon wrote in an email. "Then they focus on governance as the issue? Pretending this is the way it is for all schools?
"If the school met all those criteria, is ranked as one of the best schools by Newsweek, Washington Post, US News, is a certified visitation Core Knowledge School and has some of the highest 10th grade MCAS scores in the state: is governance good or bad? So is it about the kids, or some other agenda?"
He said the department was required under state law to report those complaints to school officials, but said they were never provided to school officials or trustees.
"Written complaints that were never shared? Do they really exist?," He wrote. "It's like people complaining to your boss about your reporting, but you never knowing about it until the day you are set for your review."
Department spokesperson Lauren Greene told the Boston Globe that "We do not typically contact schools in these instances, which are the vast majority of the complaints that we receive."
She said the school was compiling the written requests on file, at the school's request.
Readers, what do you think? Should state officials have granted Mystic Valley the right to expand its student body?