Charter school advocate takes plan to Lawrence

LYNN — After being rejected by the state to launch a school in the city for the fifth time, a charter school advocate is taking his plan to Lawrence.

Frank DeVito, founder of the Equity Lab Charter School, said while he hopes to launch a 5-12 school for 640 students in Lynn someday, he is retooling his application to the Department of Education to open Lawrence’s ninth charter school next year.

“We tell kids all the time that things happen and they have to shake it off,” he said. “So we have to walk the walk and we’re moving on with tentative plans to open in Lawrence.”

On Wednesday, Jeff Wulfson, the Massachusetts Department of Education’s acting commissioner, told DeVito he will not recommend Equity Lab’s application for a middle and high school to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

In his memo to the panel, Wulfson said while Equity Lab “substantially met” the criteria for approval, he cannot advance  the school because Lynn has reached its cap for charter seats because of higher MCAS test scores.

“We are disappointed that we will not be opening a school in Lynn at this time, but we are still celebrating the fact that the commissioner found our charter application basically met the criteria for our school,” DeVito said. “The Department of Education shares our disappointment because they wanted this school to open, but the laws regarding the cap would not allow it.”

Danielle Queiroz was among more than 150 parents on the waiting list to enroll their children at Equity Lab. The mother of 9-year-old twin boys who are fourth-graders at Sewell-Anderson Elementary School, said she is disappointed by the news.

“I think my boys would have more of an opportunity to learn at Equity Lab,” she said. “I think they would offer better programs for the children.”

Lawrence Public Schools have been in receivership since 2011. The state approved the takeover of the troubled schools following years of academic failure. It was one of the few times the state has seized control of a local school system.

Lawrence schools will enter a new phase of receivership when the state-appointed Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley steps down in June. At that time, a new governance structure will consist of a board to oversee the district starting July 1 and manage a new superintendent to be hired by the board.

City Councilor-at-Large Brian LaPierre said DeVito has come to Lynn for many years pushing a variety of proposals under different names.

“He doesn’t want to throw in the towel and I applaud his tenacity,” he said. “But for now, Lynn’s schools have outperformed on the MCAS scores and our students are doing well. Good luck to him in Lawrence.”

Mayor Thomas M. McGee declined to comment and Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera did not return a call seeking comment.


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