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State gathers input on proposed South Coast charter school

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Daniel Ackerman
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Opponents of the proposed Innovators Charter School demonstrated outside of a public hearing Wednesday in New Bedford.

At a public hearing Wednesday in New Bedford, elected officials from the South Coast took a stand against a newly proposed charter school.

The state’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education held the hearing to gather input about the Innovators Charter School. If approved, the school would enroll more than 700 students from Fall River and New Bedford in grades 6-12.

Supporters of the charter said it would provide a STEM-focused education to prepare students for jobs in clean energy, IT, and advanced manufacturing. All students would take some college-level classes and graduate with college credit.

Omari Walker heads the New Heights Charter School in Brockton and would serve on the board of Innovators Charter School. He said allowing families to opt out of public schools would give struggling students a better shot at attending college.

“True change happens in settings where people have choice,” said Walker.

But South Coast elected officials — including mayors, state representatives and school board members — were unified in their opposition to the proposal. They argued the charter school would divert funding away from public schools.

Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan said the public schools already have similar programs to those proposed by Innovators Charter School. “It is above all redundancy,” he said. “Now is not the time to spread resources thin.”

Members of the public can comment on the charter school proposal until January 7th. The state is expected to decide on the proposal in February.

Meg Mayo-Brown is the proposed executive director of Innovators Charter School. Mayo-Brown most recently served as superintendent of the Barnstable Public Schools. She previously served as superintendent of the Fall River Public Schools.