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Regents will reconsider Highlander extension

June 4, 2010

After hours of emotional testimony from parents, teachers and students, the state board of education has voted to hold off on a decision about the Highlander Charter School, which is up for a renewal of its 5-year charter. Members of the board said they would like the opportunity to study the matter further.

State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has recommended that the South Providence school receive a 2-year probationary period instead of a new 5-year charter. Gist noted that while the school provides a positive environment for students, she is concerned about elementary school test scores, which are lower than the state average.

Many parents told the board that Highlander has been a haven for their children and begged that the school be renewed for five more years. They feel the school has improved over the last two years and will continue to do so if given the chance. Highlander Principal Rose Mary Grant said she still does not understand why the state would even consider closing Highlander, which has test scores that are equal to or higher than those of other public schools in the area and has met performance targets specified by federal law.

The recommendation for Highlander has raised questions at other charter schools, where staff are now wondering what will happen when their own charters come up for renewal. Julie Nora, head of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, said it is unfair to ask charter schools to live up to a set of standards that have not been clearly articulated.

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