My Turn: A disturbing exchange with Commissioner Edelblut

From the Concord Monitor

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Gate City Charter School co-founder and longtime educator Karin Cevasco shared her conversation with New Hampshire Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut in the Concord Monitor:

“I interviewed with Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut a couple of weeks ago for the charter school position just created by the Legislature.

I thought I would be a good fit for the position with years as an early childhood educator – and I was co-founder of the Gate City Charter School for the Arts in Merrimack and served as board chair and then school director.

But, very disturbed by my exchange with Commissioner Edelblut, I have withdrawn my application.

I believe that a strong public education system is crucial to the future of the state and should provide the opportunity for a top-notch education for each and all of New Hampshire’s students. We can do that only with a Department of Education that actually supports New Hampshire’s public schools – both district and chartered public schools.

That’s what the Legislature must have had in mind when it created the new position to lead the charter school office in a bipartisan bill that had 15 co-sponsors.

The purpose, it said, was to provide “statewide administrative oversight, support and guidance to ensure the chartered public school education program, including the delivery of special education services, complies with state and federal requirements.” The new program officer would, “act as a liaison between chartered public schools and the department of education . . . ensure that a chartered public school is implementing its charter mission . . . provide training . . . assist . . . in identifying and securing alternative funding sources” and do a number of the other things you would expect of that kind of position.

But the job description Commissioner Edelblut posted does not reflect the statute. It says the goal is to “provide assistance to stakeholders in other school choice opportunities . . . and developing or revising school choice policies.” The responsibilities include providing “assistance . . . in implementing laws and regulations related to charter schools, home schools and nonpublic schools” and evaluating “policies, procedures and guidelines for public school choice in New Hampshire.”

I was troubled by the political agenda, but I applied anyway because I was inspired by the opportunity the Legislature had provided. I advanced through the interview process with high hopes of supporting public charter schools and public education choice for New Hampshire.

When I advanced through the interview process and met with Commissioner Edelblut, the first question he asked was about my thoughts on the Common Core. When I said I thought they were reasonable standards, he questioned their effectiveness and asked how we can fix public education. Later, when I said that I would envision sharing with district schools the successes charter schools have had with the widely used Orton Gillingham reading program, Commissioner Edelblut ended that exchange with, “We don’t like Orton Gillingham.”

And, finally, Commissioner Edelblut asked me how I felt about the Education Savings Accounts that would be established by Senate Bill 193. I said something noncommittal since I did not consider SB 193 relevant to the position we were discussing. He responded that we have to get ESAs passed, and that it is the role of this charter school position to advocate for school choice.

That floored me. As far as I knew, the Department of Education was not supposed to lobby that way. And the new charter school position as envisioned by the Legislature provides a great opportunity to help New Hampshire charters flourish and to work with district schools to improve education for all our children. Politicization of the charter school office – and of the department, if my interview is any indication – can only be harmful to our schools and the state.

So I have withdrawn my application to DOE.”

Source: My Turn: A disturbing exchange with Commissioner Edelblut | Concord Monitor