In two weeks, the School Committee will vote on a proposal to do something it has never done before: turn most of the controls of a struggling public school over to a private education management organization.
Due to the Bentley Elementary School’s Level 4 status as an underperforming school and the threat of a possible state takeover next year, the School Committee is considering putting the K-5 school into the hands of Blueprint Schools Network, a Massachusetts nonprofit that has partnered with school districts in Denver, St. Louis, Houston and Boston.
Officials at both the School Department and Blueprint stress that the school is technically not being “turned over” to Blueprint. Students would remain part of the public schools, and teachers would be employed by the school district. But Blueprint would take over management of the school.
Clues to changes Blueprint might make at Bentley have been laid out in recent weeks at meetings with the school’s PTO and the School Committee. While none of these plans is final, they are early indicators of the “new Bentley.”
If the School Committee signs an agreement May 5, Blueprint would take charge next fall, but only for grades 3 to 5, due to the late start. It would manage the whole school the following year.
The school year would definitely be longer — one week more for students next fall and probably two weeks in future years. For teachers, they are eyeing an Aug. 6 start and four additional weeks, largely for professional development.
Teachers would be paid more for the longer schedule, but that is something that would have to be negotiated with the Salem Teachers Union. In Lawrence, teachers with similar schedules receive a $4,000 stipend.
The class day would be extended. Blueprint is talking about adding several minutes to a schedule that is already an hour longer than most other elementary schools.