Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 20, 2014

STEAM Studio plans stymied

State rejects proposed charter high school

The team behind the proposed STEAM Studio charter school may have been passionate, but it failed to fully develop its plan for a new high school in town.

That’s the message in a report released Tuesday by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Last Friday, STEAM Studio — the proposed technology-focused high school being spearheaded by School Committee member David Birnbach — failed to earn the recommendation of DESE Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

Without Chester’s recommendation, STEAM Studio’s hopes of opening in town this fall have been dashed.

“For those that aren’t moving forward, they’re done for this cycle,” JC Considine, DESE spokesman, said. “Like with any of the proposals that aren’t successful, they’ll have the opportunity — and are invited — to re-apply in future years.”

Aside from a brief three-sentence statement emailed on Friday, Birnbach has been unavailable for comment on the fate of the proposal he fought ardently for over the last several months.

In the statement, he thanked “parents and students throughout the Merrimack Valley for their interest.”

“(We) are inspired by the support we have received locally and nationally,” he said. “In the next few months, we will update the community about our plans going forward.”

In its 10-page analysis on STEAM Studio’s application, DESE credited the school’s proponents for demonstrating “a passionate understanding of and connection to the proposed mission and vision” to the project as well as “a strong commitment to serve Andover and the surrounding communities.”

However, DESE outlined a total of 34 weaknesses with the proposal, along with only 14 strengths.

The report said STEAM Studio’s “vision is not sufficiently developed or integrated into the implementation of a comprehensive educational program.”

The state review team also cited the STEAM Studio team for what it called “limited information on how the proposed educational practices may improve the academic performance of the anticipated student population and its diverse needs, including students with disabilities and English language learners.”

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