hgazette.com, Haverhill, MA

School News

January 18, 2012

Charters welcome new school

School officials are planning to convert the Tilton Elementary School into an "innovation school" next fall, and leaders of Haverhill's two charter schools say they welcome the competition.

Allowed to operate under their own "charter-like" innovation plans, innovation schools will give public school districts a new way to compete with the growing number of successful charter schools across the state.

Haverhill's two charter schools are Hill View Montessori Charter Public School and Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School.

Both schools operate independently of the local school system and focus on offering parents an alternative to the standard curriculum and instruction, without the tuition of private schools.

Tuition for Hill View comes out of the Haverhill school district's state aid. This year, enrollment in charter schools cost $2.8 million of the district's $80 million budget.

Silver Hill, as a Horace Mann school, has its own budget, which must be approved by the School Committee, though the school is run by a board of trustees. Its budget is about $3.2 million.

Innovation schools will be administered by the local school districts and follow state requirements but will be allowed to follow different lesson plans, staffing protocols and schedules — longer school days and shorter summer vacations are possible.

Massachusetts Secretary of Education Paul Reville said the state Legislature pushed for creation of innovation schools to help public schools compete with the state's academically strong charter schools and to quell growing dissatisfaction over charter funding by school committees and administrators.

"There's a lot of resistance to money leaving the districts as (they are) starved for money," he said. "If you don't want to see those external charters grow, embrace them internally. Let's beat them at their own game. We wanted to say to educators within the system, they can be every bit as innovative. They have to be bold enough to move away from the status quo."

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