Charter schools proposed in Brockton, Taunton

Maria Papadopoulos

BROCKTON - Two new charter schools have been proposed to educate students in the Brockton and Taunton areas.

The Sabis International Charter School of Southeast Massachusetts would draw 1,300 students to Brockton from 13 communities across the region.

In Taunton, the Victory Leadership Charter School would enroll 300 students in grades K-5 from six communities in that area.

The two schools are among 10 proposals the state Department of Education has received from groups across the state hoping to open charter schools.

The state Board of Education will vote in February whether to approve the new charters.

A group of educators and businesspeople in the Brockton area has proposed to open the Sabis charter school, which would create a regional district in Brockton with grades kindergarten through high school.

Aminah Pilgrim of Brockton, president of the Sabis charter school's board of trustees and lead applicant on the proposal to the state, said Wednesday the board members decided on the proposal after visiting a Sabis charter school in Springfield last fall.

"The school would bring a lot of positive energy to the city and provide an excellent opportunity to youth in the area to pursue college preparatory education," said Pilgrim, a history professor at UMass Boston and vice president of the Cape Verdean Association of Brockton.

But some are not too keen on the charter school proposal for Brockton.

"My longstanding stance is that the typical charter school is not a good thing for Massachusetts," said Brockton School Committee member Ronald F. Dobrowski.

"I like the idea about experimentation, but from what I've seen, the Sabis schools have not shown that much innovation," said Dobrowski. "They're a for-profit school company. Their interest is in making money, not to educate children."

Charter schools operate like private schools, but do not cost anything to attend.

A commonwealth charter school, the type being proposed in Brockton, is independent of the local school district. The per-pupil expenditure is taken from the public school district's budget and sent to the commonwealth charter school for each student.

By contrast, a Horace Mann charter school falls under the jurisdiction of the local school committee.

Brockton has a Horace Mann charter school, the Champion Charter School, which serves 125 out-of-school youths between the ages of 16 and 21 who previously attended Brockton schools and still live in the city.

Dobrowski said a Horace Mann Charter School "is something that's doable because it gives the local School Committee some control over the money that is being drawn from the School Department to the charter schools."

Several sites in Brockton are being considered for the proposed Sabis school, Pilgrim said. She did not have further details on those sites Wednesday.

The Sabis charter school in Brockton would begin with 500 students in K-5 the first year, and grow a grade each year, said Robert Giordano, director of business development for the Minnesota-based Sabis Educational Systems Inc., which would operate the charter school if it wins state approval.

"What we're providing is a free market choice for parents and for children who are looking for a challenging, high-caliber college preparatory education," Giordano said. "That is the mission for the school."

The charter school would draw students from Avon, Abington, Brockton, Easton, Holbrook, West Bridgewater, Randolph, Stoughton, East Bridgewater, Bridgewater, Middleboro, Weymouth, Whitman and Hanson, Giordano said.

There are 62 charter schools in Massachusetts.

Other charter school proposals to the state include a "Quabbin Academy" of arts and agriculture, drawing from communities including Petersham and Phillipston; and a science-centered school drawing from the Springfield area.

In Brockton, the public school district could also see some competition when the Trinity Catholic Academy opens next month. It will house students formerly enrolled at three parochial schools in the city which have consolidated.

Maria Papadopoulos of The Enterprise (Brockton, Mass.) can be reached at mpapadopoulos@enterprisenews.com.