SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Local News

February 27, 2013

State approves controversial charter school

Pioneer director disputes reports about ties to Islamic movement

(Continued)

“We don’t see any merit to those allegations,” he said. “Our parents, our students can testify to what is going on in our building (in Everett) every single day. A lot of that is coming from people who don’t want to see a charter school. It’s something they thought they could attack the school with. I advise them to come and see the schools.”

The Gulen allegations were raised by the state board during the approval process, with Pioneer directors denying any connection, according to a transcript of the interview.

In his recommendation, Chester said the Pioneer School II “demonstrates the greatest potential for creating a successful, high-quality public school that serves areas where demand and need are evident.”

The Lynn and Saugus school committees also opposed the school’s approval.

Icin said the school will most likely be located in Saugus, although the site has not yet been determined. School officials also looked at a site in Peabody as a possible backup if the Saugus locations fall through, he said.

The Pioneer School will provide transportation for students outside Saugus, he said. Students from any community are eligible to apply, but preference is given to students in the communities within the school’s district.

Icin said school officials decided to target Peabody and Danvers because they do not have a charter school. Salem does have one, Salem Academy, “but we believe they can still afford another high-quality charter school,” Icin said.

Charter schools are independent public schools that operate under five-year charters granted by the state education board. They are funded by tuition paid by the students’ home school districts.

Pioneer School will have an extended school day (8 a.m. to 3:35 p.m.) and will be in session for 200 days per year. It will have a “rigorous” math and science curriculum and free after-school tutoring, according to the school.

Pioneer officials also applied to start a charter school in Woburn, but Chester recommended against that proposal, saying the organization should not expand too quickly, Icin said. Chester also recommended against Pioneer’s request to expand its current school in Everett to a kindergarten-through-grade-12 school.

Staff writer Paul Leighton can be reached at 978-338-2675 or pleighton@salemnews.com.

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