New Bedford Must Hold Hearings on School Closing [OPINION]
New Bedford has a responsibility to hold public hearings on the closure of a city charter school. What happened to the taxpayers' money?
City on a Hill Charter Schools has three campuses in Massachusetts. Two of the schools are in Boston and one is in New Bedford. All of the campuses are majority funded with taxpayers dollars under a formula best explained as "the money follows the child."
City on a Hill Charter Schools has announced it is closing its New Bedford campus, although it is still recruiting teachers for the doomed New Bedford school and nothing on its website warns the school is closing.
There is a role here for the New Bedford City Council, the New Bedford School Committee and the citizens of the Whaling City to ask serious questions about what has happened at the soon to be closed charter school.
The School Committee should create a special committee and hold public hearings. A committee of Mayor Jon Mitchell, a former federal prosecutor; Christopher Cotter, a police detective; and Bruce Oliviera, a financial expert, would be a powerful combination to get to the truth. I would suggest they include a member of the local community to the committee as well. A natural choice for the special investigative committee would be Ross Grace, Jr. He is an educator by profession and he has tremendous support across the city of New Bedford.
Incoming City Council President Joseph Lopes should also appoint a special investigative committee on the closing of the City on a Hill Charter School. The budget of the city was impacted by the funds diverted to City on a Hill. The budget is the responsibility of the city council. A special investigative committee of the city council should be small and hard-charging. The committee must demand documents and public testimony from City on a Hill. Three to five city councilors with experience in the law, finance, and public hearings should be tasked with the investigation by President Lopes.
If the taxpayer-funded leaders of the City on a Hill Charter School refuse to appear at the hearings and or turn over documents to the city, that shouldn't be the end of the matter. The City Council and the School Committee should forward any stonewalling to Bristol County District Attorney Thomas Quinn and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey for further investigation.
The local elected leaders of New Bedford aren't responsible for what has happened at this charter school. However, they must use this situation to uncover what has happened and to protect the taxpayers and the children of their city from future such situations.
Chris McCarthy is the host of The Chris McCarthy Show on 1420 WBSM New Bedford. He can be heard weekdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @Chris_topher_Mc. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.