No Easy Answers on Leominster Center for Excellence
LEOMINSTER -- So far the effort to review the viability of the Leominster Center for Excellence has raised more questions than answers.
Ned Pratt, the facilitator of the review committee and district special education director, told the School Committee Monday night it hopes to make its recommendation by March.
“Our next meeting is going to be looking at the idea of viability and we’ve been sharing data every meeting and the committee has been asking us for more data and more data,” Pratt said. “Ultimately we look to be finished sometime in March again to present our findings to the superintendent.”
From there, Superintendent Paula Deacon would make a recommendation to the School Committee, he said.
Three main questions are driving the committee. First, is the Leominster Center for Excellence viable? Second, what should a viable version of the program look like? Third, where should it be housed?
Pratt said the committee is currently working on the first of these questions and hopes to have an answer by the end of its December meeting.
The committee started meeting monthly this school year, amid calls by some residents and members of Leominster’s teacher union to defund Leominster Center for Excellence and free up about $600,000 for the district.
When the school moved to a new, larger space at City Place on Adams Street in 2016, then-Superintendent Jim Jolicoeur said the annual rent for the facility would be $66,000.
The school was founded in 2012 as part of the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s Innovation School network. It was intended as an alternative option for Leominster students struggling in a traditional high school setting.
On Monday night, Mayor Dean Mazzarella said the School Committee would need to vote on the lease before the end of the school year.
“What is the cost to run it?” Mazzarella said. “Let’s just say we sit here and decide in March or April before it’s time to sign a contract that we feel that money would be better used put into existing programs or into the special needs or other areas that we’re a little deficient on.”
Additionally, if Leominster Center for Excellence is not viable what is the “alternative to this alternative,” Mazzarella asked.
Ward 5 School Committee member Eileen Griffin said earlier plans for the school discussed bringing students from outside to sustain it.
“That never got off the ground,” she said.
Besides Pratt, the review committee includes Superintendent Deacon, School Committee member Ron Houle, School Committee member Sue Kohler, technical adviser Carrie Duff, data representative Laureen Cippola, teacher’s union representative Jennifer Keifer, Leominster Center for Excellence teacher Emma Brassard, Sky View Middle School Principal Deb Squires, Leominster Center for Excellence parent Deb Reynolds, Leominster High School Principal Steve Dubzinski, Leominster High School teacher Steve McCaughey, Leominster Center for Excellence student Chris Castro, Leominster High School parent Denise Levesque and Leominster Center for Excellence parent Trey McReynolds.
Follow Elizabeth Dobbins on Twitter @ElizDobbins