Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


October 3, 2013

STEAM Studio powers ahead

Charter school plan advances to next round


School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue said he still has “concerns over potential conflicts of interest. My concerns haven’t changed.”

“I would appreciate it if he spoke with the (state) Ethics Commission, but he hasn’t chosen to do that,” Forgue said, referring to a prior request for Birnbach to ask the commission about his involvement on School Committee subcommittees.

Birnbach maintains he already received guidance from the state on the overall issue of his dual roles and said further advisement isn’t necessary.

“I’ve received very clear guidance from the state Ethics Commission that I continue to follow and will continue to follow going forward,” he said, adding the state’s invitation to submit an application for STEAM Studio won’t change his position.

The state agreed to advance seven of the 10 proposals seeking to establish charter schools. In addition to Andover, the other proposals are in Fall River, Fitchburg, Lynn and Springfield.

Proponents had to show they are committed to education to advance to the next round, Considine said.

“We’re looking for evidence that a proposed school is going to open on time and be successful,” Considine said. “If, at this point, we think there’s enough evidence that the proposal shows enough promise, we’ll move them forward.”

For the three that didn’t get through the door, “it’s not uncommon for a group to go through this process more than once,” he said.

Considine also said in the past, some groups that won the right to submit formal applications ended up not following through.

“We’ve seen, in years past, that an invitation to apply doesn’t mean a group will apply,” Considine said. “Sometimes a group will decide, ‘we’re not in the right place. We need to wait a year.’”

That won’t be the case for STEAM Studio, Birnbach said. The team is all in.

“The focus for the final application will be focusing on school governance, rules and responsibilities ... the school policies, the school leadership structure, and more information on the facilities,” he said.

“We’re talking to folks at the Department of Education this week to get further guidance on the remaining items to work out.”

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