August 26, 2012

SABIS charter school proposed for Brockton, Massachusetts

Boston Globe: August 26, 2012

An international for-profit company that currently operates two charter schools in Massachusetts and six in other states has begun the application process for a charter school in Brockton to open in 2014.

The proposed International Charter School of Brockton would be run by Sabis Educational Systems Inc. and overseen by a nine-member board of trustees consisting of parents and community leaders. Plans call for the school to open with 540 students in kindergarten through fifth grade, and expand by one grade level each year until reaching capacity at 1,200 students in grades K-12.

The charter school planned for Brockton would follow the same educational practices used by Sabis in its other schools, offering “a rigorous college-preparatory curriculum, accessible to all students,” according to its state application.

At the Sabis-run Springfield International Charter School, a K-12 system on which the Brockton school would be modeled, every senior for 11 years running has been accepted to a college or university by graduation.

In addition to the Springfield charter school, Sabis manages the Holyoke Community Charter School, and will operate the Lowell Collegiate Charter School when it opens in fall 2013.

Area businesswoman Shawni Littlehale, a founding member of the proposed Brockton charter school, said she wants local students to be given educational options that other urban children now have.

“While the Brockton school district is doing somewhat better than it used to, it remains in the lowest 10th percentile for performance in the state,” Littlehale said. “I’ve seen how charter schools have improved education and are closing the achievement gap between minorities and whites. I’m just interested in getting such results for the students of Brockton.”

The state confirmed Brockton’s position in the lowest 10th percentile. But Thomas Minichiello Jr., vice chairman of the Brockton School Committee, took issue with Littlehale’s characterization of his city’s public school system.

“If you take a look at all the different urban school districts, Brockton public schools, with the population we have, are doing well,” Minichiello said. “We’re not just sitting on our hands. We’ve been recognized by many academic bodies nationally for our high school. The middle school is on the way up, and we’re implementing changes to the curriculum to improve the elementary schools. People who do not recognize that don’t know much about Brockton schools.”

Charter schools, created by the Massachusetts Education Reform Act of 1993, are tuition-free public schools open to everyone. The proposed charter school in Brockton, for example, would be open to all Brockton residents and to those outside the district should seats become available. Charter schools are independent of the local school district, but are closely overseen by the state, under five-year charters granted by the Board of Education.

As public schools, charter schools cannot select their students, and if prospective candidates outnumber available seats, a public lottery is held.

Public school districts frequently oppose the opening of charter schools in their midst, since they lose state aid dollars connected to student enrollment. In the first year, the 540 students at the proposed Brockton charter school would represent $5.3 million in state education aid, at about $9,900 per student. The per-student estimate was provided by Jose Afonso, director of US business development for Sabis.

According to Afonso, state officials have tried to ease the loss of aid money to districts where charter schools open by phasing out the funding loss over six years. Still, opposition has continued.

“It’s about power and money: the loss of control and the loss of funds,” he said.

Five years ago, Sabis tried to open a Brockton-based charter school to serve students in 13 area school districts. The Brockton school superintendent at the time, Basan Nembirkow, adamantly opposed the plan, and other district superintendents followed. The Board of Education ultimately denied the charter school application.

“I think we spread the net too wide last time, trying to take in too many school districts,” said Faelton Perkins, a founding board member of the Brockton International Charter School. This time, the proposal is limited to Brockton, Perkins said, adding he still expects “a lot of protest” from Brockton public school officials.

Brockton school district spokeswoman Jocelyn Meek said local administrators weren’t surprised by the charter school proposal, and had expected Sabis or another company to apply.

“We feel like we have one of the best urban school systems there are, with a diverse range of programming,” she said. “We’ll keep a watchful eye on this. We’ll see what it is that they think they can offer that we don’t.”

Critics of Sabis frequently note its for-profit status, but Department of Elementary and Secondary Education spokesman Jonathan Considine said the status is irrelevant to the state agency, since education officials award the charter to a school’s board of trustees, not to a school’s management company.

“A charter school’s board of trustees may contract with a for-profit or not-for-profit entity to serve as the school’s educational management organization,” Considine said. “We have no position on the use of a for-profit entity.”

Domenic Slowey, spokesman for the Massachusetts Charter Public School Association, said Sabis “has an amazing track record. in Massachusetts.

“Their Springfield school is one of the best in the state, and Holyoke far out-performs the public school district,” Slowey said.

The Brockton charter school proposal is one of 22 undergoing initial review by the state education agency.

Sabis has another proposal in addition to the one in Brockton, for a second charter school in Springfield. Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester will invite some or all to move to the next level, which requires submission of more detailed plans, by November.

The state Board of Education will decide in February which charters will be granted.

August 20, 2012

Milestone SABIS Academy moves from Uptown in New Orleans to Gretna, Louisiana

Catherine Boozer, Principal ofMilestone SABIS
By Helen Williams,

Milestone SABIS Academy of New Orleans has moved from Uptown to Gretna for this school term, leasing the old Kate Middleton School building at 1407 Virgil St. Milestone, in its 10th year of educating young people from kindergarten to eighth grade, will be accepting ninth grade students for the upcoming school year.

The school plans to expand to 10th grade the following school year, adding grade levels until it has a complete high school.

Milestone SABIS Academy is a free public charter school, expecting about 530 students to be enrolled this academic year.

The school provides bus transportation for students to and from school.

The principal of the relocated school is Catherine Boozer, who has been principal for six years, and has been with the SABIS system for 12 years.

An Opelousas native, Boozer lived in Phoenix from 1974 until returning to Louisiana in 2007.

“The distinguishing mark of Milestone is the implementation of the SABIS Educational System, uniquely offering a rigorous, internationally oriented, college-preparatory curriculum for students, focusing primarily on the core subjects of English, mathematics, sciences, and world languages. Spanish is the foreign language taught here,” Boozer said.

“We also offer music, computer, art and physical education. Since now we will have a better gym, we can offer more sports activities. Some of the features of the new location also include a stand-alone library and stand-alone cafeteria.”

Students are taught leadership skills, and are called “prefects,” Boozer said.

Students began class last week.

To apply to Milestone, parents can download the application on the school’s website,, which contains all the information needed for enrollment.

Parents and students are welcome to visit the campus if they prefer to pick up an application form in person.

Forward all documents to: Milestone SABIS Academy of New Orleans, Attn: Registrar, 1407 Virgil St., Gretna, LA 70053.

“All new students will have to undergo diagnostic testing in order to determine their knowledge so that they can be placed in the appropriate levels to maximize their learning,” Boozer said.

Innovators in Milestone is the name of the nonprofit charter board that runs the school.

SABIS is the school’s management organization, a global education firm that operates schools in 15 countries on four continents.

Brandon Armant, through his new firm, BAMM Communications, is partnering with Milestone SABIS Academy for its public relations and marketing services.

“Although charter schools became more popular and grew in numbers in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, Milestone SABIS has been educating young people in the New Orleans metro area for the past 10 years, and the school is continuing to excel. Milestone is a Type 2 charter school, which means the school can enroll students from anywhere in the state of Louisiana,” Armant said.

Call the school at 504.894.0557 for more information.

August 9, 2012

The Next 20 Years: Impact and Future of Public Charter Schools

This groundbreaking keynote panel discussion on the impact and future of public charter schools on education is from the 2012 National Charter Schools Conference on June 20, 2012.

Moderated by PBS NewsHour correspondent and Learning Matters President John Merrow, this panel discussed the future of charter schooling.

About our panelists:
Don Shalvey, deputy director for the Gates Foundation's U.S. Programs Education initiative, founded the acclaimed Aspire Schools in California.
Nina Rees, President and CEO of the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.
Howard Fuller, co-chair and co-founder of the Black Alliance for Educational Options, is one of the charter movement's fiercest advocates. He currently directs the Institute for the Transformation of Learning at Marquette University.
John Danner is the CEO of Rocketship Education. He was honored with the 2010 John P. McNulty Prize for leadership "pioneering a unique hybrid education model" in elementary schools in high-need areas.

August 2, 2012

SABIS students from Holyoke, Massachusetts, visit Washington D.C. and meet their Congressman

Eighth grade students at Holyoke Community Charter School (HCCS), a K-8 SABIS school located in Holyoke, Massachusetts, participated in an educational field trip to Washington D.C.  The aim of the trip was to expose students to some of the nation’s most important historical sites and monuments. The students visited major national landmarks including the National Zoo, Capitol Hill, the White House, and the Washington Monument.

They also visited a number of famous historical places including Arlington National Cemetery, September 11 Memorial, Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial, Korean War Memorial, Lincoln Memorial, Franklin D. Roosevelt Memorial, US Force Memorial, and Jefferson Memorial. The students also had the opportunity to visit a few of the world’s most fascinating museums such as the Smithsonian Institution, National Air & Space Museum, and the Natural History Museum.

In addition to experiencing the sights and sounds of D.C., through the various activities offered, students were also able to develop an understanding of the different forms of government, the decision-making process in a democracy, and the role of the legislative body.

The highlight of the trip was the special welcome by Massachusetts Congressman, Richard Neal (2nd District), who spent a considerable amount of time with Holyoke Community's students.

SABIS Holyoke Community Charter School students are welcomed by
Congressman Richard Neal in Washington D.C. on the steps of the Capitol Building
“This trip was a wonderful experience for the students. Not only did they have a lot of fun, they also had the opportunity to consolidate the solid foundation and historical knowledge that is part of the rigorous SABIS® curriculum,” stated Dr. Sonia Correa Pope, School Director. “Our students’ faces, as well as their daily E-mails to parents and myself were precious and rewarding,” stated Correa-Pope.

The trip was paid for with the help of parents, students, and school community members, who participated in many fundraising activities to make the trip possible.  The trip, which was planned and organized by WorldStrides, a company that specializes in experiential student travel, is one of the many educational opportunities available to Holyoke Community's students.   Holyoke Community opened in fall 2005 and currently serves 700 students in grades K-8.  For more information about HCCS, visit