Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


November 28, 2013

Charter school divide widens

Hearing on STEAM Studio packs library


Andover parent Betsy Brother told the audience a different story, one where she withdrew her son from Andover High School due to its overcrowding woes.

“It’s a huge place,” she said. “There are a lot of kids that leave the district because of the crowding issue.”

While saying STEAM Studio could help relieve the pressure at the school, Brother admitted that the proposal wouldn’t solve the problem, but it would bring an education alternative to town.

“I certainly know that two of my children would really benefit from that type of learning environment that the charter school is promising to offer,” she said. “Anyone who is afraid that it will take away from the resources and programs that are available to be offered at the high school is really just not being open-minded.”

Meanwhile, Hutchinson, the North Andover schools superintendent, recalled his previous role as a teacher administrator at Gloucester Public Schools, where he said a charter school opened up and eventually collapsed.

“I’ve seen the failed implementation of a charter school, from initial concept to rocky approval, to abrupt shutdown in the midst of a school year,” Hutchinson said. “From beginning to end, Gloucester Public Schools were forced to adapt to the fluctuating impact both to school finances and most importantly to student learning.”

After the hearing, STEAM Studio founding member Melanie Ziegler said the event was “what the community needs — a good, healthy debate.”

“The community has to want the charter school, or it doesn’t make sense to do it,” she said.

When asked about the number of school administrators and officials speaking against the proposal, Ziegler said she felt “the district wants to make sure their points are represented and heard. As a result, there were a large number of people speaking on their behalf.”

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