SPRINGFIELD – Six days after severing ties with the international education network Sabis, the city’s first charter school has a new name, a new team of educators to manage its transition, and even a new software company to handle its records students.
Administrators at the former Sabis International Charter School found themselves in a difficult position last week after ending the school’s 26-year relationship with Sabis. On Tuesday, they voted 10-0 to rename the school Springfield International Charter School, which will allow it to keep the same initials.
Board members also voted 10-0 to promote and reorganize existing staff to serve as the new management team and named Maretta Thomsen as the head of its transition team. Thomsen, who was recently on leave but was acting principal for over a year, agreed to work until the end of December to help the school develop a new curriculum and other systems.
Trustees voted on June 30 to sever ties with Sabis and his local management organization, Springfield Education Management LLC, after more than two years of debate. Teachers and some parents called Sabis too rigid and too reliant on testing. The last dispute was over who should supervise the school principal.
The trustees offered the management company a six-month extension of its contract, which expired less than three hours after the vote, for transitional purposes. Springfield Education Management officials declined, saying they would only agree to an extension if the goal was to negotiate a longer contract and adding that they were not interested in leaving the students in the middle of the year. .
With students in summer school, the decision meant that the board of trustees – which owns the school and the state charter that allows it to teach some 1,550 students in Kindergarten to Grade 12 – had to act quickly. President Atu White said the state department of elementary and secondary education will give them one year to complete the transition.
“We will address this transition to keep everything going smoothly over the next year. There will be a lot of dialogue with families and the community, ”White said.
He came up with the new name, saying he liked the idea of recognizing the city where the students live and continuing to recognize that the school tries to train students to become world leaders with global ideas.
Board member John Delaney, a retired police sergeant, suggested naming the school for Officer Kevin Ambrose, who was killed while on duty in 2012. Delaney said he ‘Ambrose was a longtime trainer and worked and died very close to the school on Joan Street.
“Not only was he a police officer, but he was a hero and a great man,” Delaney said.
While members said they liked the idea, White said he was concerned about how long it takes to name a building after a person.
“Maybe we could name the auditorium or the library or a field,” said administrator Anne Marie Nicolai. “We could still honor this officer and involve the children. “
Delaney and former Police Chief Paula Meara, who is also an administrator, agreed and said they would immediately form a committee to work on the process.
The board also agreed that academic coordinator Justin Baker will take over as interim director and that a nationwide search will be conducted in the near future to find a permanent director.
The four Academic Quality Checkers will also have new titles and more responsibilities. Shirley Vazquez, who was the Kindergarten to Grade 2 principal, will now be the vice-principal and supervise elementary classes; Brendan Dwyer will now be the principal of the high school; Trina Roberts will be the principal of the middle school and Rosara Pellicier will be the principal of the elementary school. They will also have additional duties, White said.
“All the people you mentioned, great. They are all professionals. They are all good choices, ”said Delaney. However, he said he would be more comfortable if Thomsen considered serving until June 2022.
White said he and Thomsen had discussed her work until the end of December, but would be willing to come back and ask if she would consider staying another six months.
Board member Wilfrido Lopez asked if the new directors will receive increases to be compensated for their additional responsibilities.
“We will have to review the budget in general,” White said. “We’re not here tonight and they’re not rushing this conversation, they have a vested interest in leading … but the board will do whatever it takes for them.”
By severing ties with Sabis, the school also lost the student management software provided by the company. After researching four companies, he offered to use Hampden-based Rediker Software Inc.
“They provide top notch service and it is local and can be on site for training,” Baker said.
The board voted 9-0, with one abstention, to approve a three-year contract that will pay the company $ 72,000 for the first year, which includes building the system the school needs and $ 46,000. each for the next two years.