At the January 26 Board of Education meeting that dealt primarily with the Gloucester charter school mess, Secretary Reville does his best imitation of Gibson in Conspiracy Theory. He notes “a number of attempts to distract us from the focus that we ought to have,” people who “[cloak] themselves in talk about de-politicizing the process,” “the well-worn tools of political assassination, innuendos, and threats of various kinds.” There are those who seek to “diminish the courage” and perseverance he has to do what’s in the best interests of children and to maintain the “integrity of the board.”
It’s bizarre, then, to watch a Republican Senator (Bruce Tarr), a Democratic Representative (Anne-Marie Ferrante), and the Inspector General Gregory Sullivan, who comes without party affiliation, all highlighting egregious errors and politicization of the process by the Secretary and by the Commissioner.
Tarr noted “deep flaws in the process,” a situation that “day by day becomes worse and worse and worse,” with “voluminous information that continues to come forward”. He bemoans the lack of integrity and the black mark this approval puts on what was “the best [charter approval process] in the nation.”
Ferrante notes (here and here) similarly “each time I appear before you… it gets worse and worse and worse,” that being blunt “the findings in the IG’s report are appalling,” “departure from procedure,” a commissioner who “mislead the oversight committee in Gloucester,” “shredding of documents.”
The IG notes (here and here) that the Board voted in support of the Gloucester application because they thought that the state’s Charter School Office (CSO) had recommended it, that the Board voted without knowledge that the CSO had found that the applicant group did not meet the criteria, and that the applicant had failed to meet two of the required criteria categories. He says the Commissioner should not only have disclosed the CSO’s view, but also that he has no authority to recommend a charter not meeting those criteria:
“The Commissioner will not recommend that the board awards charters to applicant groups whose applications do not meet the stated criteria for a charter in the application, as corroborated in the final interview of the applicant group by the charter school office.”
The Secretary did a great job in advancing the ed reform bill – probably the most important reform in education since 1997, when there was a lift in the charter cap and the creation of unionized Horace Mann charter schools. But on this one, they have made a real mess. And it is not partisan politics, as can be seen in the line-up of those providing testimony — an R, a D, and an IG.
If the Secretary is alluding to Pioneer, I’d simply say that we have been worried about the politicization of the Board of Education since day one. We are on record about this. We testified against the Art. 87 changes to create a Secretary position, just as he had in 2003 when then-Gov. Romney proposed something similar.
The messes he is dealing with in Gloucester and, now, in Brockton are his messes. We read about the midnight email the same day everyone else did in the Gloucester Times. The martyrdom thing is wearing thin.