Good morning, Commissioner Riley, Secretary Peyser, Chair Craven and members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education:
My name is Kevin Taylor and I have served as the CEO of City on a Hill Charter Public Schools since July 2018. I would like to thank the Commissioner for his recommendation to approve our consolidation request and to renew our Circuit Street charter with probationary conditions.
As you’ve heard me say in the past, when I took the helm of City on a Hill, I did so understanding that I was making a promise to the students, families, and communities of New Bedford and Boston. This promise was not to continue with business as usual or rest on the reputation of City on a Hill, but to lead us – as Jim Collins’ timeless book of the same title suggests – from “good to great.” This did not and does not mean lowering the bar of excellence, nor holding our students to different standards, but acknowledging the way we’ve done our work for the past several years needed to change to best serve our students.
Indeed, the work required to move our schools from “good to great” meant recognizing when we are not meeting the high bar the accountability that charter autonomy requires. This was the primary reason our Board of Trustees decided to relinquish the New Bedford charter and that the Class of 2020 will be the third and final graduating class of CoaH New Bedford.
Moving our schools from “good to great” also meant the difficult decision to co-locate our Boston schools in January such that CoaH Circuit Street and CoaH Dudley Square 9th and 10th graders are at Circuit and the 11th and 12th graders are at Dudley. This mid-year change was difficult for our students, families and staff. Nevertheless, we took those steps so that we could remain viable and face the headwinds that have been blowing in our direction for years.
Moving our schools from “good to great” also meant that last month we submitted a consolidation amendment which will lead us to return to our roots as a premier, standalone charter public high school in Boston, redesigned and transformed to educate the next generation of global minded, citizenship-focused leaders. The Board is voting on that consolidation request today.
To be clear, these difficult steps were taken in the context of the accountability related to Circuit Street’s charter renewal and ongoing negotiations with our teacher’s union. Further, I recognize that the path ahead will be challenging. We must restore the faith our families have in us. We must turnaround our academic results to attract more students. We must reach an agreement that provides our teachers with the protections that they seek but also preserves our autonomies as a charter to innovate, operate and thrive in a charter environment with higher expectations than the one CoaH helped usher in 25 years ago.
We will do these things even as we work to meet the probationary conditions imposed as part of our renewal on our path to becoming the charter high school our students, families and the Roxbury community deserve. I am thankful that the Commissioner believes in our vision for the future and for providing us with the runway to demonstrate that our turnaround efforts are bearing fruit. And if not, to cap our seats permanently.
As the wise Chinese philosopher observed, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” With BESE’s support today, City on a Hill takes yet another step along the journey to moving from “good to great.” I firmly believe our latter days will be greater than our former. Thank you for your continued support.