Plum School Board Forgoes Participating in Charter School

Board members said they don't want to participate in creating a charter school with the Penn Hills and Gateway school districts.

Members of the Plum School Board have passed on the opportunity to create a charter school with the Penn Hills and Gateway school districts.

At an education committee meeting on Monday, a majority of the board members voiced concerns about joining in the effort to convert the Boyce Campus Middle College High School program into the High School and Beyond Charter School.

BCMC currently operates at Community College of Allegheny County's Boyce Campus in Monroeville as an alternative schooling option for students in Plum, Gateway and Penn Hills school districts—Woodland Hills opted out of the program this year. About 27 Plum students are enrolled in the program this year.

Plum Superintendent Timothy Glasspool said the charter school would be a way to save the BCMC program with the existing districts. The charter school also would give students a unique opportunity to complete college credits toward and associate's degree by the time they graduate high school.

It would have cost the district a little but more than $262,500 to participate.

School board members Loretta White, Kevin Dowdell, Sal Colella, Shane McMasters and Richard Zucco said they opposed the charter school.

"We need to take care of home base," Colella said. "I don't support it. I don't want to lose momentum, and I don't see the upside for Plum.

"This competition is not good. I want to stay away from it."

Zucco agreed, saying the more students from Gateway and Penn Hills attend charter or cyber charter schools than those from Plum.

"They need us more than we need them," he said.

However, board member Joe Tommarello said he discussed the proposal off current Plum students, and they liked the idea of earning college credits.

"A lot of students embraced the idea," he said. "That's why I wanted to move forward with it."

White said she was concerned the charter school would be a "brain drain," using up resources, money and better students who want to earn college credits.

Board member Andy Drake and Glasspool mentioned that not supporting the charter school would mean Plum officials would have no say in the program. Students would still be able to attend the charter school, regardless of whether the school district became involved or not.

"If this happens, why wouldn't our students still leave?" Drake said. "This would still be a viable option (for students if the district doesn't participate), and we won't have a say."

Tommarello said he would rather have had representation on the charter school's board.

Colella said officials could develop a more "robust" program in-house to satisfy the needs of those students.

"It's a different strategy," he said.

Gateway and Penn Hills school boards have yet to vote on the matter.


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