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Straight-A charter school gets approval to expand to second site

Copyright © 2017 Albuquerque Journal

Besides pushing to close low-performing charter schools, the state Public Education Department is also leading a charge to replicate top charter schools and launch new high-quality institutions.

In September, New Mexico received a $22.5 million federal grant to create 22 new charter schools and expand another eight schools over five years.

The work already has begun.

Last week, the Public Education Commission voted 5-3 to allow Mission Achievement and Success – a charter school with three consecutive A’s – to open a second site in Albuquerque.

In August 2018, the new MAS location will begin offering kindergarten and first grades, adding a grade level each subsequent year until it reaches 12th grade.

PED enthusiastically supported the expansion.

“We are excited to recommend approval,” PED Charter Division Director Katie Poulos told the commission.

The school had strong support from the commission, but three members voted against the expansion – Patricia Gipson, Trish Ruiz and Gilbert Peralta. Commissioner Carmie Lynn Toulouse also had concerns, but abstained from the vote because one of her relatives attends MAS.

The dissenting commissioners noted that MAS asked for the replication approval only a few days before the Nov. 17 meeting and said the process felt rushed.

Some policies and specifics were not in the place, they said – for instance, MAS has not settled on a facility for the second location and is still considering 10 possible sites.

They suggested that the motion be tabled for more consideration, pushing back the opening date for the second location to August 2019.

But Commissioner Karyl Ann Armbruster argued that Albuquerque children don’t have time to wait.

“I don’t think there is anyone in the community who wouldn’t want a good school like this,” she said.

MAS has succeeded with a high-needs population: 99 percent of its students are economically disadvantaged, compared with 71 percent statewide, and 21 percent are English language learners, compared with 13 percent statewide.

Launched in 2013, MAS currently serves roughly 750 students.

JoAnn Mitchell, MAS founder and executive director, said her team has the experience and drive to manage the expansion.

“The early years are hard for anyone,” she said. “If you don’t start strong, you don’t finish strong.”