EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

November 13, 2013

School Committee rejects charter pitch

ANDOVER — With a state hearing aiming to discuss a local charter school proposal next week, the School Committee has voted against allowing the proposal to move forward.

The committee voted unanimously last week to oppose STEAM Studio, a charter school being pursued by a team led by one of its own members, David Birnbach. With four members voting against the proposal, Birnbach abstained from the vote.

Next Thursday, Nov. 21, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will visit Andover to solicit public comment on STEAM Studio at a meeting from 4 to 6 p.m. at Memorial Hall Library, 2 North Main St.

STEAM Studio is a proposal for 450 students in grades nine through 12 that focuses on STEM — science, engineering and technology study with an added concentration on digital arts and design. It is one of six schools statewide hoping to have a public charter in hand by the end of February, according to J.C. Considine, spokesman for the state.

Birnbach, who said he refrained from last week’s vote to eliminate the appearance of a conflict of interest, said it is “unfortunate that the School Committee is against giving Andover students the opportunity to choose which public high school best meets their education interests.”

“While I am disappointed, I am not surprised,” he said via email. “This is the same committee that voted against my spring 2013 proposal to establish a Center for Technology and Engineering at Andover High.”

The same committee also “had no interest in a proposal I put forth in 2011 and 2012 to create an Andover Innovation Lab,” Birnbach said. The lab was designed to identify, develop and pilot new initiatives and technologies that enhance teaching and learning in the classroom, he said.

But School Committee members say they believe the Andover school district is already heading in the direction STEAM Studio is aiming to focus on, just with a different road map.

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