NEW BEDFORD — Founders of the proposed Innovators Charter School abruptly withdrew their application Tuesday, citing political opposition to the STEM-based early college school.

“Over the past months and weeks, it has become increasingly clear that political complexities on the ground will make it very difficult for us to successfully launch our early college charter public school…” wrote Meg Mayo-Brown in a letter to state Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Jeffrey C. Riley. 

Mayo-Brown, former superintendent of schools in Fall River and current superintendent in Barnstable, would have been the new charter school’s executive director.

“We need additional time to continue to share the vision for our proposed educational model in the community,” Mayo-Brown wrote on behalf of the Innovators Founding Group, adding, “It is for this reason that we are respectfully withdrawing our application for consideration at this time.”

Read the full text of Meg Mayo-Brown’s letter

Dear Commissioner Riley,

I am writing on behalf of the founding team at Innovators Charter Public School (ICS). As I hope you know, since the beginning of this application process, we have been focused on keeping kids at the center of every decision we have made. We wholeheartedly believe that every child in New Bedford and Fall River deserves access to a high quality public school that will meet their unique needs and enable them to reach their full potential, and that was what we intended to deliver at ICS.

Over the past months and weeks, it has become increasingly clear that political complexities on the ground will make it very difficult for us to successfully launch our early college charter public school on the south coast at this time. As a result, we need additional time to continue to share the vision for our proposed educational model in the community. It is for this reason that we are respectfully withdrawing our application for consideration at this time.

We are incredibly grateful to the DESE staff who have guided us through the rigorous application process, as well as to the parents and community members in New Bedford and Fall River who expressed excitement and optimism about our proposed model. We also want to thank the many partners and supporters across the Commonwealth who provided input and guidance to us during the design and application process. 

We look forward to continuing to support New Bedford and Fall River families and students in the near future.  

Respectfully,

Meg Mayo-Brown, on behalf of the Innovators Founding Group

The proposed charter school drew unified opposition from state legislators, School Committee members, and the mayors of both New Bedford and Fall River during a mid-December public hearing in New Bedford. Mayor Jon Mitchell, who spoke out in opposition to the school at December’s hearing, said Tuesday that the charter school would have undermined district schools.

“We’re pleased that the Innovators Charter School withdrew its application, as we believed that the diversion of funds from our school district would have undermined the district’s progress,” Mitchell said in a prepared statement.

He thanked Fall River Mayor Paul Coogan, state and municipal leaders, educators, parents, and community members “for making their voices heard.”

Mayo-Brown’s letter said the charter school’s founders remained committed to the vision of “creating and sustaining a public school option where every student thrives in a rigorous and relevant curriculum, with wall-to-wall early college experiences, career pathways, and college credits for all.”

She wrote that the founders “look forward to continuing to support New Bedford and Fall River families and students in the near future.” But she did not say if or when the school might consider another application.

ICS would have opened in the fall of 2022, planning to eventually enroll 735 students in STEM classes with access to early college credit at UMass Dartmouth and Bristol Community College. Co-founder John Sbrega previously served as president at Bristol Community College before retiring in 2017.

Even before ICS withdrew its application, key supporters had backed away from the proposal. In an opinion piece sent to New Bedford and Fall River media last month, BayCoast Bank President and CEO Nicholas M. Christ wrote that he had stepped down from his role as vice chair and board member for Innovators Charter School and that BayCoast employees would not sit on the ICS board.

“Additionally, at this point, we will refrain from any further discussion, advocacy, or involvement with the proposed school,” he wrote.

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