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Concerned about Condition of Charter School

My concern, now apparently being shared more widely in the community,  is for the condition of the Marblehead Community Charter Public School (MCCPS). I have heard from friends, teachers, and parents about their concerns for the physical condition of this school building: that the roof of the school routinely leaks so badly that kitchen workers have to catch rain water in bowls and pails that falls down on counters and work surfaces; that there has been water on the floor of classrooms; that there are fire alarms in some areas that aren't working because they were improperly installed and cannot be connected to our town fire department; that there is mold in the building (check the kitchen floor and office); that students there regularly trash plumbing equipment, soap dispensers, and other equipment that must be continuously replaced; and that there are building code violations that in some cases could well require closing the school until they are remediedproblems, some of them long term, that have begun to turn families off and warn them away from this school.  Is it safe to send their children there? (I also understand that a number of the school's best teachers over the past two years have left for other jobs.)

 

Are these things true? Is the town's building department aware? The fire department? The Massachusetts Department of Education? What is going on there? And why don't we hear about it? As a town resident, I'd like a lot more transparency about MCCPS, which is a PUBLIC school. I want to know if my friends with kids should be made aware of these things. (I always thought it was among our region's best and earnestly promoted it. Now, hearing about the condition of the place, the frankly questionable decisions of its present leadership in delaying repairs, and the departure of staff, I'm not feeling this way anymore.)

 

F.B. King
Chestnut Street

 

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English
2 Comments

Have you visited the school yourself to confirm these concerns? This seems a bit inflammatory
coming from someone who doesn't seem to have a student at the school. All the schools in
town have maintenance issues (I mean, how long did we continue using the Gerry despite
the fact that it probably should have been condemned years earlier?)....but MCCPS is the only
school that had to purchase their own building and has to fund all maintenance and repairs on
their own instead of out of a town budget. It is a public Charter school which means it operates
differently than the other schools in town and outside of our school department. You may want
to learn more about how charter schools operate and how they are funded here in MA. MCCPS
has always had a higher level of teacher turnover for a variety of reasons - the most common
usually being that they can't pay as well as the public schools. As a parent who had two children
attend MCCPS, I can say that what the school lacked in the quality of their facilities was more
than made up for by the community they foster and education that my children received. I
have no idea how their budget was affected by the additional costs caused by the pandemic
over the last two years - or whether they were entitled to the same level of federal and state
support as the town public schools. It sounds to me like you have some sort of issue with the
Charter school, but if I'm mistaken and you are really just acting out of concern I'm sure the
school would very much appreciate your donation to help improve some of these issues.

Yes, I have spent many years in and around the school. Two of my family members worked there, and I myself have supported projects, staff, and others there for many years. I've attended dozens of events and programs, sat on committees, and wholly supported charter. And yes, I am intimately familiar with how charter schools "work" and are funded. They are PUBLIC schools, subject o the ultimate purview of the MA Department of Education. MCCPS may have purchased its own building and thus may not be luxurious. But that is not my concern. My concern is about a blatant disregard for FIRE SAFETY and food safety. The kitchen staff are heroic and fabulous; but the conditions under which they must work are fairly appalling. Also, the school built several new offices last year and people have been physically in them for one year, including children. They do not, at present, and have not for ONE YEAR, have working smoke alarms! By law, this is a violation in a public building. When it rains, water leaks into the kitchen where YOUR children's breakfast and lunch were prepared.

I am not commenting on the quality of your children's education, and am glad to hear that you were happy with that. Many families have been happy. But things have changed there now. How would you feel if you learned that the AIR your kids breathed was compromised, as it is now. The air quality of this school does not presently meet the standards set for schools. The equipment and structural envelope of the school are old and in enormous need of repair. (Witness the smell of mold in the kitchen. Check out the leaks in the roof.) Why has the school deferred this kind of maintenance. Here's why: "Well, we don't have the money for that." Ahhh, but there IS money to paint a giant mural on the building! And money to hire a DEAN of STUDENTS (for 225 kids??). And money to hire an HR professional (THAT was probably a good decision, but at what cost elsewhere??)
I strongly suggest that YOU study the legal requirements for public schools to operate in Massachusetts! In terms of the environment, equipment, safety, and security, the school's permit to even be open could well be at risk. Go and see for yourself.

Do I have "an issue" with the charter school? You bet! Its leadership has not paid sufficient attention to a building in which my friends' children AND my own family members have spent hundreds of days. And a "donation" to the school"? How about this donation: the amount of time my family has spent there, away from home, far beyond their salaries over the years, and the deep commitments of effort and concern (above and beyond) they both made to the school while working there. My issue is with the kind of decision-making presently "guiding" MCCPS. I dare say it is not the sort of decision-making I would always look for in a top-notch independent school. And please, the pandemic had NO impact on what is happening now at charter. None.

And yes, I am indeed acting out of concern! I would hope you and others would join me, if you have strong feelings about this once-very-high-quality place.

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