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Editorial: Charter school earns future

The state’s approval for the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School to expand to include high school grades is a testament to the school’s success and popularity and its ability to address critical issues raised by the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.

The school’s K-12 program will be the first of its kind in the country, a source of deserved pride among school leaders and parents who have supported it.

The charter school opened in rented space in South Amherst with 44 students in 2007. It was an experiment and then the first program of its kind in New England. Experts early on recognized the school as a model Chinese language program, and a year after it opened the school received a $1.5 million federal grant to expand into its current building on Route 9 in Hadley.

At the time, the Department of Education ranked it third among the 135 schools that applied for the grant. Perhaps more important, the “founding parents” were happy with the education their children were receiving. They stayed on and spread the word.

The school added one grade per year and now serves 300 students in kindergarten through Grade 9. The school is now accredited to serve 584 students once the high school buildout is complete. This will also mean the need for additional space, but Executive Director Richard Alcorn expects additional federal assistance will be available, given the government’s interest in promoting Chinese language education.

To win expansion approval, the school also had to overcome criticism from the state education board for its governance structure and discipline practices. Because the principal, Kathleen Wang, is married to Alcorn, the education board asked trustees to exercise greater oversight at the school.

As we wrote earlier on this page, the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School has been good for the region and the children who attend. It offers a longer school day and a rigorous academic program along with classes in Chinese language and culture.

The green light to expand recognizes the quality of the education taking place at the school and acknowledges that education in the language and culture of China is critical as that nation plays an increasingly important political and economic role on the world stage.

Easthampton police chief’s brush with death

Sometimes, without warning, even the simplest medical procedures become dangerously complicated. This was the case recently for Easthampton Police Chief Bruce W. McMahon, who underwent knee surgery after a bad fall on the ice. McMahon, 53, injured himself Jan. 1, dislocating a kneecap and severing a tendon.

After fairly routine surgery to repair the damage, McMahon appeared to be on the road to recovery. Within two weeks, he was back on the job, albeit on crutches and on a reduced schedule.

Then, on Jan. 29, he collapsed at home and was rushed to the hospital. Doctors diagnosed a pulmonary embolism, a dangerous condition in which a blood clot travels through the bloodstream to create a blockage in the lungs. If not treated immediately, the condition can be fatal.

McMahon spent three days in the hospital’s critical care unit, and two more in the hospital, after which he recuperated at home. He is on blood thinners to prevent a reoccurrence and doctors implanted a device to prevent other clots from reaching his heart or lungs.

Meanwhile, he’s also recovering from the knee surgery. He’s been getting around on crutches and knee braces, and now is undergoing physical therapy.

We hope McMahon will approach his leg rehab with a the kind of vigor people sometimes experience after a close call. His doctor informed him that with a blood clot of the size they found in him, only 10 percent survive.

McMahon expects to return to full-time duty in May, and in the meantime, the department is in the capable hands of Sgt. Christopher Patnode.

We wish McMahon a steady and full recovery. His experience is a reminder to never take one’s health and well-being for granted.

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