EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA


August 15, 2013

Letter: Charter plan conflicts with board member’s role

To the editor:

Regarding the story on the proposed charter school to be located in Andover, I am surprised and concerned that David Birnbach would be leading the application for it. I think that his role as a School Committee member should preclude his involvement. The inherent conflicts are so apparent, I am surprised that he has not resigned his seat. I would urge him to do so.

In speaking of conflicts, I will note that my wife is a teaching assistant in Andover and thus a member of the Andover Educational Association (AEA). I support unions in general and the AEA in particular.

Our two children are proud graduates of the Andover Public Schools, and the excellence and professionalism of Andover teachers make them an equal partner in the triumvirate that make our town’s schools the envy of the Merrimack Valley, alongside strong parental involvement and accomplished and innovative administrators.

Having David wear two budget hats, that of APS and that as a leader of a charter school initiative, sets up some alarming possibilities. His STEAM proposal — how will that work with expanded initiatives that the high school may recommend? Budget decisions around increasing staff to address the per pupil ratios (as David notes, the high school is overcrowded by 250 students); expenditures for expanding the high school’s own science, math and engineering initiatives; the need to upgrade lab facilities; to offer an increased advanced placement curriculum; the list could go on and on.

His blithe “win-win for everybody” comment based on “taking 250 students out of the high school” is especially puerile and offensive. We’re not fools, David. Taking $3.2 million dollars out of the budget that serves all students in town and channeling it to a quasi-private school will not amount to a win-win. It will amount to a lose-lose, as parents of APS students will see a decline in district performance and taxpaying homeowners will notice a decline in the resale value of their properties as a direct result. Nobody chooses to live in a community based on a charter school location.

If bringing a charter school to Andover is your new passion David, please pursue it — just not as a board member whose sole focus should be to increase the excellence of the schools we already have.

Gerry Gustus


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