SALEM — Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester has taken administrative action against the Salem Community Charter School due to serious concerns about its management.
The grade 9-12 charter school for high school dropouts was “placed on conditions” in May and given deadlines to address a number of issues.
“I have substantial concerns regarding the management of the school based on evidence gathered during site visits conducted by the Charter School Office,” Chester wrote in a May 10 memo to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.
“In nearly two years of operation, SCCS has not secured a safe and adequate facility, has not maintained an effective attendance system, has not provided the academic model proposed in its charter, and has not adhered to its growth plan,” he wrote.
A site visit report said students are “chronically absent.”
The two-year-old Salem Community Charter School, which has about 50 students inside the Museum Place Mall, is not the same as Salem Academy Charter School, an independent public school for grades 6-12 in Shetland Park.
Superintendent Stephen Russell said when he saw the negative report in May, he was “a little bit caught by surprise.” Although the charter school for dropouts was created by and funded through the Salem School Department, it operates independently and has its own board of trustees, he said.
“It’s alarming on the face of it,” Russell said of the report.
However, Russell said he also received a letter from the state education department indicating the state supports the school, wants it to succeed and is using “tough love” to try to improve it.
On Friday, the school received a positive progress report from the state following a visit last week.
“(Salem Community Charter School) has made significant progress towards addressing each of the conditions placed on its charter,” the emailed memo stated. “All requested documents have been provided to the Charter School Office in a timely manner and supporting materials have been both detailed and comprehensive.”