Letter to CoaH Boston Families – February 19, 2020

Dear CoaH Boston Families:

The Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education has recommended to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education that City on a Hill Circuit Street (CoaH CS) be renewed for another five years and placed on probation with conditions. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education will vote at their meeting on Tuesday, February 25, 2020 to make a decision on the recommendation. 

I am writing to provide additional context on what this likely means for our school and to invite you to a Board of Trustees Meeting on Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m. in the Forum of our Circuit Street building. 

What is a charter renewal and why does it matter?

Charter public schools like City on a Hill are authorized by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) for five-year terms. During the fifth year of each term, DESE looks at a variety of factors to evaluate the school’s performance and to determine whether the school should be renewed. There are four possible outcomes from the renewal process: (1) renewal, (2) renewal with conditions, (3) renewal on probation and (4) closure. The Commissioner of Education, Jeffrey C. Riley, makes a recommendation to the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE). The final decision is made by the State Board of Education.

What is the renewal process?

City on a Hill Circuit Street opened in the fall of 1995, meaning we are in the fifth-year of our fifth charter term. We submitted our renewal application on August 1, 2019 as required by the charter statute. On Monday, September 23, 2019, a team of reviewers working on behalf of DESE visited our campus to observe our classes in action, and met with select members our Board of Trustees, staff, including members of the administration and Network team that works on behalf of all three City on a Hill Schools, and a cohort of students. The data collected over the past four years, data from the renewal visit, coupled with the information contained in our renewal application, factored into the Commissioner’s recommendation to the State Board of Education that City on a Hill CS be renewed and placed on probation with conditions. BESE will vote on the Commissioner’s recommendation on February 25, 2020.

Why is Commissioner Riley recommending renewal on probation?

According to the letter he sent to the State Board on February 18, 2020, the Commissioner is recommending renewal on probation as CoaH CS has not demonstrated consistent academic success, including on MCAS scores, and our continued financial instability due to enrollment challenges. Additionally, Commissioner Riley shared concerns about the Board of Trustees and governance practices.

Does this mean that our school is closing or that I should seek educational opportunities elsewhere?

No. This is the time for us to come together as a City on a Hill Boston community and work together to meet the ambitious probationary conditions recommended. In fact, Commissioner Riley stated his faith in our ability to meet our probationary conditions, stating that “recent steps taken by the school and board of trustees to remedy these serious concerns, as well as recent changes to staffing, indicate the school can address these issues.”

What are some of the conditions of our probation?

There are a total of eight (8) conditions, including providing DESE with Board of Trustee materials regularly; sharing our probation status with the CoaH Community; establishing a reserve account for potential expenses; providing weekly enrollment updates to DESE; creating an academic action plan to improve results; improving MCAS scores; having the Board of Trustees engage with a consultant, and temporarily limiting our enrollment to 350 students. The full text of the conditions can be found here.

How does this affect the consolidation of the City on a Hill Circuit Street (CoaH CS) and City on a Hill Dudley Square (CoaH DS) charters?

Within his letter about the renewal of the City on a Hill Circuit Street charter, the Commissioner also shared that he is granting our request to consolidate the City on a Hill Dudley Square charter under the CoaH CS charter with a maximum enrollment of 400 students, citing his belief that doing so will enhance our financial sustainability. As part of our probationary conditions, our maximum enrollment will be limited to 350 until the Commissioner makes the decision to remove this condition. The consolidation will take effect on July 1, 2020 and will not cause any changes during the current school year. We will discuss this in greater detail at our Board of Trustees meeting on March 2, as outlined below, and we would welcome your attendance.

I still have questions. How can I get more information about our plan moving forward?

The entire City on a Hill Boston community is invited to join our Board of Trustees Meeting on Monday, March 2 at 6 p.m. in the Forum of our Circuit Street building (58 Circuit Street). During this meeting, Board members will discuss next steps under consolidation and hear feedback from community members. If you are unable to attend the meeting and/or if you have questions before March 2, please do not hesitate to contact me directly.

We do not take for granted that you have put your trust in us by choosing our program. Please know we are working diligently to earn your continued trust each day.


Kevin T. Taylor

Chief Executive Officer

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