Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

August 22, 2013

STEAM Studio would complement town's `excellent schools'

The Andover Townsman

---- — Editor, Townsman:

Thank you Townsman for reporting on our proposed public charter high school. Students would pursue two concentrations: Computing & Digital Arts and Health Sciences, where they take on the roles of professionals working in the field and tackle real-world problems working independently and on project teams.

STEAM Studio would abide by the same laws and rules as district schools, be governed by a public Board of Trustees and overseen by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Funding would be provided through tax dollars and there are no admissions hurdles or entrance exams. If more students want to attend than there are seats available (450 maximum), a random lottery determines who gets in. Students from other communities can attend if seats are available.

If, for example, 200 Andover students register to attend, funding (for these students) that previously flowed to the school district would instead flow to the charter school. The district budget would decrease. However, since the district would serve fewer students, the district’s costs would be lower.

Our team spent the past six months exploring five potential cities and towns. In late June, we decided to propose the school in Andover, and in July, we drafted our proposal — laying out our school’s focus and approach. The proposal was not complete until late July and many ideas about the school’s plan and approach were not finalized until the proposal was submitted to the Department of Education on July 29. I then promptly reached out to brief our superintendent, School Committee and principals.

The approval process is just beginning and citizens will have the next six months to learn more, provide feedback and help shape the school’s future through our community forums.

STEAM Studio ( has roots in previous proposals that I have made. The Computing and Digital Arts concentration includes elements of an April proposal to the School Committee and superintendent urging funding to establish a Center for Technology and Engineering at Andover High – to address the growing importance of these disciplines. In past years, I proposed the creation of an Innovation Lab, a “Think and Do” Tank to identify best practices and pilot innovative new initiatives. The School Committee and superintendent took no action on these proposals and no funding was provided. I also reached out to our teachers’ union to collaborate with them on the center initiative. I received no response.

As a 10-year School Committee member, I have passionately represented the best interests of our students – and will continue to do so. STEAM Studio is proposed as a public high school that would complement the excellent schools in Andover. It will provide different teaching styles and a focus on specific subjects that are of interest to many Andover students. For those students, STEAM Studio will be a better “fit” for their high school experience, and give students an option that they don’t currently have.

We invite you to attend community briefings Sept. 11 and 23 at 7 p.m. at the Memorial Hall Library.

David Birnbach

86 Osgood St.