Alma Board of Trustees approves agreement with City of New Bedford

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 19, 2019

NEW BEDFORD – Alma del Mar’s Board of Trustees voted Monday evening to approve a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the City of New Bedford to open a new, neighborhood-enrolled charter public school that will grow over four years to serve 450 children in grades K-8.

In January, Alma received approval from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to open a new charter public school in New Bedford. Officials from Alma, the City of New Bedford and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education have negotiated this unique MOU to eventually operate the new school at the former Kempton Elementary School.

“This agreement represents an incredible opportunity for New Bedford families and students. We are excited to forge ahead in collaboration with Superintendent Thomas Anderson to support great schools for all children in our city,” said Alma Board Chair Jan Baptist.

The deal is still pending various city and state approvals. If all approvals are received, Alma plans to open at the former Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception school building this August and will initially serve 200 students in grades K, 1, 2, and 6. This new school will grow over four years to serve 450 children in grades K-8 who are enrolled from the new zone drawn by NBPS around the former Horatio A. Kempton School.

The school will serve as Alma’s temporary home while the now-closed Kempton School undergoes renovations to ensure it is a safe and welcoming space for students. If city approvals are granted, the City of New Bedford would convey the Kempton to Alma del Mar later this spring.

“I am thrilled by this unique collaboration between the City in which I spent my professional career and a school that I believe in wholeheartedly,” said Martha Kay, a member of Alma’s Board of Trustees. “It is exciting to see these two working together for the good of our community and, just as importantly, the benefit of our children.”

Alma trustees are volunteers who serve three-year terms. As members of the Alma del Mar Board of Trustees, each trustee advocates on behalf of the 450 New Bedford children that we have committed to serve and put on a college trajectory.

Alma’s Board of Trustee members are: Jan Baptist (Chair), Martha Kay, Gail Fortes, Maria Rosario, Chris Arnold, Lucile Hicks, Christopher Bator, Bronwen Cunningham, David Eckert and John Polk.

About Alma del Mar:

Alma del Mar is a K-8 public school operating under a five-year charter granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The school is tuition-free. Alma’s mission is to put every one of our scholars on the path to college and to challenge them to be service-minded leaders. We are achieving this mission by providing a highly demanding, highly supportive education to every scholar who walks through our doors. Alma del Mar features a longer school day, a longer school year, high expectations for all scholars, and outstanding teachers from across the country. Alma currently serves about 450 scholars in grades K-8.

Posted in Ops @ Alma

Alma announces plans for temporary site for new school

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 13, 2019

 

NEW BEDFORD – Alma del Mar has secured temporary space for its new charter public school at the former Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception school building in the Near North End section of the city.

The school will serve as Alma’s temporary home while the now-closed Kempton School undergoes renovations to ensure it is a safe and welcoming space for students. If city approvals are granted, the City of New Bedford would convey the Kempton to Alma del Mar later this spring.

Alma’s temporary space, located at 136 Earle Street and down the street from Alma’s flagship school, includes 12 classrooms, a gymnasium and stage.

“We have been preparing to open a new school and welcome 200 new scholars into the Alma community for several months, but until the Kempton building is ready, we need temporary space,” Gardner added. “We are looking forward to when we will be able to move into our permanent home at the former Kempton school.”

“We are grateful to Father Reis and the team at Immaculate Conception and the Diocese of Fall River for opening their doors to our growing school community,” said Will Gardner, Executive Director at Alma del Mar. “The features and condition of the space, as well as its proximity to our current school campus, make it the perfect temporary home for our new school.”

In January, Alma received approval from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to open a new charter school in the city. Alma and the city have been negotiating a unique agreement to operate the new school at the old Kempton site pending various city and state approvals.

If all approvals are received, Alma plans to open at the Immaculate Conception site this August and will initially serve 200 students. This new school will grow over four years to serve 450 children in grades K-8 who are enrolled from the district’s former Kempton neighborhood.

After the Kempton property is transferred, Alma’s facilities team will conduct a round of thorough site inspections to determine the repair and improvement needs of the school. Findings from an initial site visit in early February included significant water damage and the need for a new boiler. A large addition will also need to be constructed on the property so that Alma may eventually serve 450 children at the school.

Alma will unveil revitalization plans for the Kempton property later this spring.

About Alma del Mar:

Alma del Mar is a K-8 public school operating under a five-year charter granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The school is tuition-free and is open to all children in New Bedford. Our mission is to put every one of our scholars on the path to college and to challenge them to be service-minded leaders. We are achieving this mission by providing a highly demanding, highly supportive education to every scholar who walks through our doors. Alma del Mar features a longer school day, a longer school year, high expectations for all scholars, and outstanding teachers from across the country. We currently serve about 450 scholars in grades K-8 at our flagship school located at 515 Belleville Avenue.

Posted in Ops @ Alma

Alma del Mar Enrollment Lottery Draws Nearly 750 Applications

Kindergarten teacher Grace Stanford congradulates four year old Mielyse Gonzalez on being accepted to the kindergarten class during the Alma del Mar electronic lottery. [DAVID W. OLIVEIRA/STANDARD-TIMES SPECIAL/SCMG]

Kindergarten teacher Grace Stanford congratulates four year old Mielyse Gonzalez on being accepted to the kindergarten class during the Alma del Mar electronic lottery.
[DAVID W. OLIVEIRA/STANDARD-TIMES SPECIAL/SCMG]

New Bedford (February 28, 2019)Alma del Mar Charter School held their enrollment lottery Wednesday night with more than 100 hopeful family, friends and children in attendance. The lottery, held for the 2019-2020 school year, attracted 748 applications – a 35 percent increase over last year’s application cycle.

Alma del Mar received 198 applications for 45 available seats for next year’s kindergarten cohort. The school also received 550 applications for grades 1-8, where there are currently no openings.

WBSM host Phil Paleologos joined Alma del Mar staff to help conduct the annual enrollment lottery. Before he pressed the button to initiate the electronic process, he thanked families for their commitment to their children: “As a parent, I can’t think of anything more important than what you’re doing right now.”

Mr. Paleologos also asked the crowd to cheer for the incoming Class of 2036, which is how next year’s kindergarten class will be referenced as 2036 is the year the children would graduate from college.

This lottery was held for Alma’s flagship school at 515 Belleville Avenue, which currently serves 450 scholars in grades K-8. Alma was recently approved by the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to add another K-8 school in New Bedford. An enrollment plan is being developed for this new campus.

Across the state, these lotteries are emotional and frustrating events for families, who face long odds because of limited openings set by state law. Since applicants usually far outnumber available seats, charter enrollment is determined by blind lottery. By law, enrollment lotteries are held to determine which children can enroll.

About Alma del Mar:

Alma del Mar is a K-8 public school operating under a five-year charter granted by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The school is tuition-free and is open to all children in New Bedford. Our mission is to put every one of our scholars on the path to college and to challenge them to be service-minded leaders. We are achieving this mission by providing a highly demanding, highly supportive education to every scholar who walks through our doors. Alma del Mar features a longer school day, a longer school year, high expectations for all scholars, and outstanding teachers from across the country. We currently serve about 450 scholars in grades K-8.

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Read Will Gardner’s full remarks to New Bedford School Committee

Below is the full statement that Executive Director Will Gardner made before the New Bedford School Committee during its regular meeting on February 11, 2019:

My name is Will Gardner and I am the founder and Executive Director of Alma del Mar. I am here to speak about the agreement between myself, Mayor Mitchell and Commissioner Riley to move forward in creating a first of its kind neighborhood enrollment Commonwealth Charter school.

Like any compromise, this deal is far from perfect. Voices from the extremes of various ideological camps will of course express their displeasure. School choice purists hate the lack of a lottery system. Those who believe that not even quality charter schools should exist decry any growth of any public school that is outside of the centralized district system.

But the job of this school committee and other decision makers is to listen to families, not special interests. What do New Bedford families want?

First and foremost, New Bedford families want good schools. They don’t care about a school’s governance model— district schools, public charter schools, innovation schools, vocational technical schools— they just want their kids to have access to the best possible education.

Alma is a good school. We are one of many good schools in this city. Though we’re not perfect and we’re continually improving, Alma’s results, rates of family satisfaction and the analysis of state decision makers attest that the hard work of our teachers and scholars has made our school a success. By the time they reach middle school, our scholars significantly outperform their citywide peers. It’s due to these strong results that the state Board of Education voted overwhelmingly to approve our opening a second campus.

Although we are continuing to work out the details of how the neighborhood model will work, (it’s never been done before) whether we add an additional campus is no longer up for debate.

New Bedford families want good schools and this agreement allows us to create another one.

In addition to good schools, New Bedford families ideally want good schools that are close to home. This is where, from Alma’s perspective, the neighborhood model of Commonwealth charter is particularly appealing. By creating the next Alma campus as a neighborhood school, we’ll remove the barrier of a lottery for families. This gives us greater ability to build relationships with our new families through focused outreach within specific neighborhoods.

As part of this agreement, you have been asked to initiate the transfer of the former Kempton School property to Alma for the purposes of creating this new neighborhood school. We are prepared to take a damaged, 100 year old building and—as we’ve done before and without using any MSBA funds— raise the money to beautifully restore it. We will bring life back to an empty lot and prevent another empty building from becoming an eyesore and liability. This is a win for everyone.

Our front desk has already been flooded with calls from excited families who live near Kempton and want to know when they’ll be able to enroll their kids at our next campus. We can’t wait to meet these families and begin building strong relationships with them.

As I understand it from the district’s perspective, this neighborhood model also makes it easier to adjust to any shifts of enrollment brought about by creating a new school for families. Rather than the scattered changes created by a random lottery, neighborhood assignment allows greater control, predictability and flexibility for the district as you plan for the future. Given this, Alma’s growth can more easily be taken into account as the Superintendent goes about the challenging work of re-zoning district schools.

Complex problems are not best solved by ideologues hurling stones at each other from a distance. Progress on these challenges can come when interested parties, at a local level, sit down and see if they can find common ground. At a time when our national leaders can seem incapable of reasoned compromise, we owe it to New Bedford families to try.

Posted in Ops @ Alma

Bringing local food to Alma del Mar!

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We are thrilled to announce that we are partnering with Coastal Foodshed to bring locally-sourced, fresh produce to the Alma community! The mobile farm stand will be held in our Community Room from 1:30-3:15 pm on Friday, Feb. 8. They will also provide live cooking demos and a tasting! YUM!

See you there!

Posted in Ops @ Alma

State approves Alma del Mar/City of New Bedford expansion partnership

This morning, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 9-1 in favor of Alma del Mar expanding by 450 scholars in an innovative new partnership with the City of New Bedford.

Below is Executive Director Will Gardner’s full statement to the Board:

Thank you to the board for having me and a special thank you to the Commissioner for really having the boldness to enter what I know is an extremely difficult issue, and to facilitate a compromise that I think all of us believe will be in the best interest of kids in New Bedford. I’d also like to thank my counterparts Mayor Mitchell and Superintendent Anderson for their willingness to come to the table on this agreement and their willingness to think outside the box to hopefully create something that is going to be really great and also aligned with our common vision.

My name is Will Gardner, I’m the executive director and founder of Alma del Mar. When we first began work on Alma del Mar, I had founded it alongside a group of community leaders and concerned families and educators. I was working at the time at middle schools in the district in New Bedford. At the time there was great concern about the performance of these middle schools, the high school and other schools in the district. That concern remains, despite the progress we’ve made as a city. At the time, we believed that the best way to improve outcomes for the kids we were serving at that middle school level would be to start in kinder and to provide the kind of high demand, high support education, rich in content, that would lead to them being on the path to college.

We were chartered in 2011 and opened with 120 scholars in grades K-2. We’ve grown since then to serve nearly 450 scholars in grades K-8. Our middle schoolers are now the top performing students in the city. They outperform many students in the state as well as many of their suburban peers.

We’ve become known for serving English Language Learners especially well and we’ve also been cited by the Department for our exemplary work with family engagement. Among many things we do, we believe that relationships drive our success. Examples of what we do to build those relationships are: We start the year by doing a home visit for every single one of our scholars including those who are returning. We give cell phones to all of our staff members so that they are able to be in frequent contact with and put plenty of money in the bank in those relationships with families and that’s led to a lot of success.

It’s for this reason in particular that we are really interested in this innovative proposal before you. We believe that this neighborhood model of a charter school would enable us to magnify this strength we have in serving families and focus it on a targeted geographical area. We’re excited about this and we can’t wait to begin this work.

We’re also excited about this proposal because it’s in line with the vision that Superintendent Anderson and Mayor Mitchell have for the district and given that we believe it opens even more doors for further collaboration in the future. We believe we can bring a lot of resources to bare on turning around the district in the years to come. Along with Superintendent Anderson and Mayor Mitchell, I share a vision that very soon, as soon as possible, every family in New Bedford will be surrounded by high quality, high performing school options. We believe that this proposal is one important step toward that day. I ask that all of you on the board support this work and this important step that we are making together. Thank you.

Posted in Ops @ Alma

Alma welcomes Christopher Bator to Board of Trustees

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

January 18, 2019

New Bedford, MA

Alma del Mar welcomes Christopher Bator to Board of Trustees

Christopher Bator was recently elected to the Alma del Mar Board of Trustees.

A retired assistant US attorney from Boston, Mr. Bator now serves on the faculty of the Trial Advocacy Workshop at Harvard Law School. He also currently serves as board member and treasurer of the Cambridge Redevelopment Authority.

“Chris will provide a legal perspective to any  strategic discussion and support the board’s overall governance structure,” said Jan Baptist, chairperson of the Alma del Mar Board of Trustees. “We’re excited to welcome him to Alma’s Board of Trustees!”

Mr. Bator prosecuted violent, drug, and organized crime cases as an Assistant US Attorney in Boston for more than 27 years. He obtained his bachelor’s degree from Harvard College in 1976, and his J.D. from Boston University Law School in 1985. He was an associate at Hale and Dorr (now Wilmer Hale) in Boston from 1986-1990.

Alma trustees are volunteers who serve three-year terms. They are entrusted with ensuring the school lives up to its mission, formulates a long-range plan and accountability plan, and complies with all laws. As a member of the Alma del Mar Board of Trustees, Chris will advocate on behalf of the 440 New Bedford children that we have committed to serve and put on a college trajectory.                                                                 

Other current Alma del Mar Board of Trustees members are: Jan Baptist (Chair), Chris Arnold, Bronwen Cunningham, David Eckert, Lucile Hicks, Martha Kay, Gail Fortes, Dr. John Polk and Maria Rosario.         

About Alma del Mar:

Alma del Mar is a public charter school serving New Bedford. Our mission is to put every one of our scholars on the path to college and to challenge them to be service-minded leaders. We are achieving this mission by providing a highly demanding, highly supportive education to every scholar who walks through our doors. Alma del Mar features a longer school day, a longer school year, high expectations for all scholars, and outstanding teachers from across the country. We currently serve 440 scholars in grades K-8.

Posted in Ops @ Alma

The Next Alma

Dear Alma Families,

I am excited to announce that we are moving forward with plans to open a new Alma campus this fall! We will be opening this new campus with 200 scholars in Grades K,1,2 and 6 in August 2019. The school will grow within four years to serve 450 scholars in grades K-8.

We expect the Commissioner to make a formal recommendation to the State Board of Education (BESE) on this matter momentarily (watch live here). BESE will then take their formal vote next week. When they do, they will have a chance to read all of the thoughtful emails and letters that so many of you took the time to write on Alma’s behalf. Thank you for your support.

I am also happy to report that as part of our growth plan I have signed a letter of intent with the Commissioner and the City of New Bedford for this new campus to have neighborhood enrollment. Should this plan move forward, we will be breaking new ground by creating a fully autonomous Commonwealth charter school that enrolls students based on neighborhood zone rather than through a blind lottery. We will share information regarding enrollment for the new school this spring as those details are finalized.

There are many details of this proposed deal to be worked out. I am optimistic, however, that we can reach a final plan that serves the best interests of kids and families, who have been waiting for far too long for access to high quality school options. 

While we realize we won’t be able to accommodate everyone on our current waiting list at the new Alma, we will continue to advocate to improve all schools in the city. This avenue for growth provides us with the possibility to seek even more seats in the future. This is one important step toward the day when every family in this city will have access to a high-quality school.

Eight years ago we set out on the mission to put New Bedford kids on the path to college and to challenge them to be service-minded leaders. Commissioner Riley’s recommendation both affirms the strides we’ve made in this work and sets the stage for more families to benefit from an Alma education in the future.

Thank you to all of you who continue to choose Alma for your family. We can’t wait to welcome 200 new scholars into the Alma family this fall.

In Service,

Will

Posted in Alma Profiles, Ops @ Alma

New Bedford families demand a strong education for their children


 

“Every single year we’re turning away 500 families in our lottery. We want to make sure that those families, and the additional families who want the opportunity that Alma represents, have access to this high quality education. That’s why we’re proposing this growth.”

SIGN THE PETITION: https://www.almadelmarfoundation.org/

Posted in Ops @ Alma

Alma to serve as New Bedford polling place on Nov. 6

We are so excited to show our scholars what service is all about tomorrow, November 6th! When we found out the New Bedford Election Commission was looking for new polling locations last minute, Alma stepped in and offered up our space. 
 
So, tomorrow we will convert our Cafeteria into an official polling place. This means the Cafeteria will be sectioned off from the rest of the building and closed down from usual daily activities. Scholars will eat breakfast and lunch in their classrooms.  
 
The election commission will supply polling staff, and the city will provide multiple police officers to monitor the polls. As always, Alma scholars will always be supervised by their teachers, and there will be additional supervision throughout the school day.

  
With that being said, arrival and dismissal may be more hectic than usual. Please be patient and plan ahead for traffic delays.
 
Alma is thrilled to show our scholars just how important the democratic process is tomorrow. Due to the level of importance, the school is willing to offer up its space to make sure every community member has a chance to vote.
Posted in Ops @ Alma
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