Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Chinese Charter School on Probation

PVCICS:  Charter renewed with conditions

Despite cheerleader like support from 40 to 50 parents, children and staff in the audience--about half of them hoisting supportive signs--the state Board of Education and Secondary Education unanimously voted to support the recommendation of Commissioner Mitchell Chester to renew the five year charter for Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School, but rejected amendments to allow expansion to high school or increased enrollment in the elementary grades by 120 students.
Signs of support (in English)

Although a last minute amendment by Commissioner  Chester grandfathered the seven current eight graders, so they may attend ninth grade but the school cannot solicit any additional students.  And since each additional student represents an average of $13,000 in revenue, a costly sanction indeed.



The lone voice and three minute testimony of the parent of a former student had the undivided attention of the board. The mother of the now 10 year old boy who was banished to a tiny room for seven hours--without parental notification--the day after an alleged shoving match took place in the boys room.


A Department of Children and Families investigation branded two school employees--one of them Principal Kathy Wang--guilty of neglect, and a follow up investigation by the Department of Education found four additional areas of concern:  discipline, special education, governance and leadership.  


Jeff Wulfson, Deputy Commissioner BESE


The mother asked the Board of Education and Secondary Education members four questions:

Why are the two employees who have been found guilty of neglect still working around children?

What pupose does a school's family handbook serve if the board of trustees can unilaterally overturn portions of it as they see fit? 

How can public tax money now be used to pay for the legal appeal of those found guilty of neglect?

Even if the State Ethics board found it legal for a husband and wife to hold the positions of Executive Director and Principal in a charter school, how can it be acceptable?

In closing, she countered the BESEs simple solution of telling the Chinese Charter board of trustees to shape up and provide more governance.  "To have the board of trustees try to correct themselves and be responsible for overseeing school administrators seems like a leap of faith, and high risk."



Paul Reville, Secretary of Ed.  Mitchell Chester, BESE Commissioner

So this morning, once again, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education listened to Commissioner Chester...and if the leaders of the Chinese Charter School were also listening today, they will take seriously Commissioner Chester's  demand to drastically improve governance and leadership by the September 30 deadline.
Maura Banta, Board of Ed Chair sends "clear message"


 David Roach, BESE member

Not that nearby Hatfield will mind if they do not. Hatfield Comment Pvcics 10 2011 Springfield Republican reports (from afar)

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Really? Why punish all of the kids when this 'mother' is just on a tirade to try and dismantle a wonderful school that she claims was a wrong doing? She has blown this thing sooooo far out of proportion that she must now continue with it or risk revealing herself as the idiotic entitled person she is. Long live PVCICS

LarryK said...

Yes, really. YOU are precisely the type of parent David Roach was referring to when he questioned how "humble" you all are.

Two state investigations have backed up the mother. The board also quoted a letter from Dr. Kate Atkinson (PVCICS staff physician for four years) about concerns as well.

Wake up and smell the tea.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what your political agenda is here Larry, but your slanted evaluation is a joke. If you are going to buy these "facts" from Ms Roy and Ms Atkinson, then I have a Aircraft carrier project in Wyoming to sell you.

Anonymous said...

It seems to me that the Hatfield Public Schools' concerns are largely based on financial grounds. They are concerned about their budget and the impact that the loss of state aid will have on them. Unfortunately, the lack of state aid (and the growth of federal expectations) is hitting most school distracts hard. To blame their economic hardships on a school that parents choose to send their children to seems like a scapegoat. The truth is that many districts have students whose parents decide to take the option of school choice, as is their right.

LarryK said...

The economic argument put forth by the Hatfield Superintendent is indeed, all too routine.

His citing the "recent and apparently serious incident involving the disciplining of a student at PVCICS" is,however,a tad unusual.

Anonymous said...

While I won't try to argue for or against the seriousness of the alleged incident mentioned (it's obviously a heated issue with both sides taking an entrenched stance), I would point out that there are roughly 300 families who once again choose to send their children to the school. If you were one of those families and you heard about the allegations would you not look into them yourself and remove your child from the school if you believe them well founded? The fact that there has not been a mass exodus, or an exodus of any kind, would suggest that the allegations are perhaps exaggerated or overblown, don't you think?

While I won't pretend to know anything about the Hatfield school administration, and I have no desire to slander them or suggest they are doing anything wrong, it seems to me they are citing the incident to just bolster their claim, chiefly of which is the economic aspects (to which they devote much more of their letter talking about).

LarryK said...

As one of the original 15 founding group members of PVCICS, I am aware of a number of families who have pulled their kids from the school.

Anonymous said...

We've got a lot of problems with our public schools, but this just goes to show that starting whole new schools doesn't necessarily cure the problem. It doesn't mean they shouldn't exist, just that it's not a magic pill. No one can repeal human nature. These schools will struggle just like our public school because they are run by people, and people are imperfect.

LarryK said...

Agreed.

And in this case we have the top two imperfect people running the school married to each other.

Anonymous said...

Every school has parents who pull their students out. If there was child abuse or neglect going on, one would expect an explosion in that rate. Has that happened at PVCICS? While I would never discount any particular family's decision about what is best for their child, it seems like such serious allegations, if true, would make a high percentage of families pull their children from the school, thereby slashing the school's budget (as a result of losing the state aid Hatfield is so keen on) and putting the school out of business, justifying those who oppose it and their concerns.

LarryK said...

BIG difference between "abuse" and "neglect". Nobody is claiming "child abuse."

A state agency, however, DID find "neglect."

Anonymous said...

Are you claiming that "renewal with conditions" is the same thing as "probation"? The Massachusetts Primer on Charter Schools and Special Education is careful to distinguish between the two (as you can see in Section A, part 6 of the document). It seems that the headline to your blog post is a bit misleading.

LarryK said...

I was using layman's terms, as evidenced by not placing the word in quotation marks.

I think the Gazette headline this morning "Chinese Charter school to expand in Hadley" is far more misleading.

Anonymous said...

Larry, From reading PVCICS original charter application I see you and Donna were Founding Board members. As someone with a child in Kindergarten, can you you fill me in as to why you folks are no longer involved?

-- A former student of yours

LarryK said...

Donna and I assumed that once the school got off the ground a year or two down the road, that they would bring in professionally trained education experts for the top positions like Principal, and Executive Director (which is the equivalent of a School Superintendent).

When Kathy kept the position of Principal and Rich became Executive Director we became greatly concerned (as did a number of other parents who were in from the founding).

The final straw for us was almost exactly a year ago when Donna took Kira to China for three weeks (hiring a Chinese Grad Student tutor four hours a day, six days a week) and we were told that Kira would be dis enrolled from the school.

At the moment Donna and Kira are back in China (for a total of three weeks) and Amherst Crocker Farm Elementary School was more than happy to sign off on it as a great education experience.

Anonymous said...

Is the Chinese grad student you hired certified to teach math, science, and social studies, as well as English and Chinese? While I'm not discounting the benefits of such a wonderful trip, it seems that those other subjects are rather important, and that three week trips would be better taken in the summer.

And just because another school has signed off on it doesn't necessarily make it educational sound, just more convenient for you.

LarryK said...

More certified than Kathy or Rich.

Anonymous said...

Kathy and Rich don't teach those subjects, teachers do.

LarryK said...

And charter schools have less stringent qualifications for teachers than do regular public schools.

Anonymous said...

According to the DOE website the school has 100% of "Core Academic Classes Taught by Teachers Who are Highly Qualified." Highly qualified is highly qualified. There isn't a sliding scale.

LarryK said...

It is not the teachers I have concerns with, it is the administration. I doubt you will find them listed on DOE as "highly qualified."

Yesterday Commissioner Chester said he had "substantial concerns" about the board of trustees and the leadership.

Just exactly who do you think he meant by "leadership"?

Anonymous said...

And yet the board still unanimously voted to grant the charter and allow the school to add on a 9th grade (an allowance that even Commissioner Chester urged approved). Clearly something right must be going on in the school.

I do not discount any of the conditions the board suggests, and indeed think they all will improve the functioning of the school, but to suggest that the school needs a complete overhaul or closure seems ridiculous based on its performance and the obvious satisfaction that THREE HUNDRED families have with its education of their children as well as its leadership and vision.

LarryK said...

Neither the mother who testified yesterday or I have ever suggested or stated the school requires "closure."

If the school had handled the incident last year properly they would have easily aced their charter review, and would now have permission to add 120 elementary students and expand to high school.

The permission to add 9th grade is ONLY for the seven children now in eighth grade. Some of them may already have found another school as there are no guarantees PVCICS will be able to add grades 10, 11 and 12.

Anonymous said...

Well to cycle back to my original comment, clearly Hatfield suggests a non-renewal of the charter and closure as displayed by the letter you shared.

LarryK said...

Clearly you are wrong. Why am I surprised?

Clearly the letter states the Superintendent has concerns over PVCICS seeking to "amend its charter to allow for an increase in its enrollment from 300 to 420 students."

Even after citing the "apparently serious incident involving the disciplining of a student" he goes on to say "the approval of an amendment to increase enrollment so soon after this incident is a concern."

Anonymous said...

I will graciously admit I'm wrong on the particulars, but I think you and I are smart enough to realize that Hatfield would much prefer the closure of the school and knows that by limiting the grades it will severely affect the attractiveness of the school to prospective students as language immersion that ends at 8th grade isn't all that attractive.

And "why am I surprised"? Really Larry? I don't think I've posted any erroneous facts or made illogical statements. I though we were having a rational discussion, not slinging mud or being derogatory to the other.

LarryK said...

We ARE having a rational discussion. I could do this all night (and probably will).

But you clearly did post an "erroneous fact" by saying the Hatfield School Super asked the state not to renew the charter for PVCICS.

And as Ed would say, "facts matter."

Anonymous said...

I find it odd that a parent who is no longer involved with the school feels the need to be so hateful, and that so many people feel they are qualified to weigh in on an incident that they weren't involved with. IN SCHOOL SUSPENSION HAPPENS IN ALL SCHOOLS. Should they have contacted the boy's mother first? yes. But to suggest that the classroom teacher (who, in my professional opinion, was NOT guilty of any wrongdoing) shouldn't work around children? RIDICULOUS! This woman is one of the most caring, kind teachers I've ever met. She is entirely dedicated to the education of ALL children. Having been educated in Amherst's "amazing" school system, I can confidently say that this woman is 100 times a better teacher than ANY teacher I've ever had in Amherst.

The opposition raised some very valid point. Yes, it does seem wrong that Kathleen and Richard are in charge. This doesn't mean that we need to make the education of our children suffer. EVERY SINGLE PERSON in that school is 100% dedicated to providing a safe place for these kids to get this amazing education.
It seems so incredibly sad to me that several disgruntled parents, cannot grasp the idea that NOT EVERY STYLE OF EDUCATION WORKS FOR EVERY CHILD. Rather than accept the notion that their precious little baby might not be the perfect genius that they thought, they blame the school. NOT EVERY CHILD CAN BE SUCCESSFUL IN A LANGUAGE BASED PROGRAM! This doesn't mean that your child is worth any less, or that they're dumb, or that you are a bad parent. It means that there are SO MANY different styles of learning, and while many children can excel and flourish in a language based program, some cannot, and may need a more traditional school setting, or simply just a DIFFERENT style of teaching.
Rather than saying "I want my child to be as successful as they can and I'm going to do everything in my power to make that possible", it seems SOME (*cough*Ellen Roy*cough*Larry Kelley*cough*) want to be angry at the school, to blame the teachers, and to refuse to admit that their child might not be perfect. Rather than acting in the best interest of their child, they're acting in the interest of their own personal pride, and apparently an unnecessary grudge.

GET OFF YOUR HIGH HORSE LARRY!
I don't know who decided that you were going to be the voice of Amherst, but you don't speak for everyone, and it's sad and petty and a little immature to drive all the way to Malden to be a NAYSAYER!
I'll understand if you don't approve my comment. It doesn't paint you in a very flattering light.

LarryK said...

Oh, I'm more than happy to publish your comment as it does not paint YOU in a very good light.

You forgot "cough" Dr. Kate Atkinson and "cough" Commissioner Chester and "cough" Deputy Commissioner Wulfson and "cough" at least three other members of the Board of Education who had serious concerns with the school leadership.

Cowardly Anon Nitwit said...

Strange, I do not understand how people can attack the state with the consistently top-ranked education in the country for showing the inadequacies of a school administration. Larry is correct, the major negative findings of the board show cause for concern especially given the neglect by the administration.

Also how is it acceptable a place can treat a student so harshly and get away with it? Or is it allowed because of the "culture" difference?

Anonymous said...

If you intend to evaluate school quality based on rankings, it might at the very least be worth acknowledging the following facts:

Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion (Hadley)
• Ranked 1st in the state based on percentage of students who scored proficient or advanced in
Grade 4 math (92%)
• Placed in the Top 25% of schools statewide based on percentage of students who scored
proficient or advanced in English in Grades 4 (92%) and 6 (94%), and in math in Grades 4 (92%)
and 6 (81%)
• Ranked 1st among sending district schools in English/math average scores in Grades 4 and 6
• 26% more students scored proficient or advanced in English and 31% more in math compared to
sending district averages (across all grades)

LarryK said...

And in FY2011 only 5% of PVCICS student population was eligible for reduced price lunch.

Anonymous said...

Honestly, I think you and this other woman need to move on with your lives. You are no longer affiliated with the school, and appear to have decided to leave quite some time ago. Why don't you spend your energy on something more productive and positive instead of trying to ruin the educational opportunities for children whose parents choose to send them to this school? It seems like you are out to get two specific people, and it's quite immature to keep prolonging and trying to find new ways to hurt these people. Please focus your energy on the current educational opportunities that your child is a part of, and let PVCICS parents do the same.

Anonymous said...

JUst because a student does not get free or reduced lunch does not mean they do not have problems at home the school may not know. Also, just because a student gets free or reduced lunch does not mean they are stupid or less likely to do well on MCAS.

Many of the kids go to the school because they want a better education. If hatfield or any other town is concerned about students leaving then perhaps they should improve their curriculum and make their schools more attractive. The money allocation needs to be fixed but that's a different discussion. This school is only getting these issues because of it's location. All other schools have in school suspension or "time out". I have seen used on 1-2 graders before. This student sounds like was trouble and the problem came with not calling the mom. That lies within Kathy or whoever is making that decision. The teacher should be removed from that decision.

It is time for someone to go and play with the school. This person needs an education background because Richard can not oversee his wife if the school wants to expand. They are stubborn but I think are also realising now they need help, for the future of the school.

LarryK said...

Yes, they do. And I think at some point the state is going to provide it.

Anonymous said...

How will the state provide it? I think the school will meet it's requirements and get expansion next year.

LarryK said...

Not without a major change.

Anonymous said...

Larry do you know anything about Mike Hays decision to take next school year off? A letter went out to parents last night that was very vague. I'm very upset that he lobbied so hard for this job 2 years ago and is now backing down despite the fact that he is doing a great job.

LarryK said...

No I don't. But one of my readers may...

Anonymous said...

Why do people continue to point the finger at "The mother." The central core of the current situation is leadership of the school - plain and simple. The Board cannot remain the same as is currently constituted and the leadership of Kathy and Richard must be changed. Three years ago we saw what was happening, talked about it in a democratic fashion, and then predicted what just happened at the BOE meeting. We are also now predicting that the necessary changes will NOT take place because nobody in the current leadership is humble enough to agree with the BOE's findings. It's not "one mother" - it's the leadership of the school, and despite the BOE findings, it will not change, and future penalties will be forthcoming. We were right before, and we're right again!