Chinese charter trustees meeting to discuss Gazette report that director, trustee seek to open another school
HADLEY — Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School trustees are holding a special meeting Thursday in Springfield to discuss a news report that Richard Alcorn, the school’s director, and a trustee are seeking to establish another charter school in the eastern part of the state.
The meeting takes place at 5 p.m. at Springfield College. According to the agenda posted on the school’s website, the session will focus on “concerns about a Gazette article Aug. 30 regarding leaders of PVCICS seeking to open a similar school near Boston.” That will be followed by an executive session “to address concerns.”
The Gazette story reported that Alcorn and trustee Rosalie Porter, both of Amherst, and Anne Watt of Cambridge have submitted a 63-page prospectus to the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in a bid to open a Chinese immersion school that would serve Brookline, Cambridge, Newton, Waltham, Watertown and Weston. A decision on which of the 10 prospectuses will be invited to submit official proposals will be made later this month, education department spokesman J. C. Considine said.
When asked whether she thought an executive session of this public board was appropriate given the explanation, Emily Gainey, a spokesman for the state attorney general’s office, said her office only responds to complaints about violations, and does not speculate on specific situations. She referred the Gazette to the portion of the law that sets out the reasons executive sessions can be called.
Lawyer Jeffrey Pyle of the New England Newspaper and Press Association’s Media Hotline, who was consulted by the Gazette, said that he could not identify a permitted reason for an executive session that would apply to the issues to be discussed at the Sept. 5 meeting.
“I’m puzzled by how the school is reacting to a straightforward news story,” said Gazette editor Larry Parnass. “It’s certainly newsworthy that the executive director of the Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School is scouting the possibility of opening a similar program 90 miles from his Hadley classrooms.”
Alcorn has declined to comment to the Gazette via telephone and has not responded to emails about his plans. According to Alcorn, Porter and Watt’s proposal, there is a dearth of Chinese charter schools in the northeast, and a school near Boston would fill a need.
The Hadley school, located on Russell Street (Route 9) with some temporary classrooms in Amherst, is in the midst of adding secondary grades, which will include expanding its building. The school presently has 330 students in kindergarten through ninth grade. The state has authorized it to enroll as many as 584 students through 12th grader.
The Boston-area school, according to the prospectus, would add students from kindergarten through Grade 12 gradually, with 884 students the goal.
Alcorn also runs a business importing English language editions of Chinese books and other Chinese products.
Parents, who said Alcorn had not informed them of his plans before the news became public last week, have raised the question of whether opening a second school would spread the director too thin.
The board of trustees, which includes several members who work in Springfield, have conducted meetings there as well as at the Hadley campus.