With the state education commissioner looking to pull their charter, officials at the Robert M. Hughes Academy are apparently trying a last-ditch effort to save the school. As Jack Flynn reported in today’s Republican, the board at the charter school discussed at a meeting last night replacing its acting director, Fred Swan.
Swan had ascended to that role after Hughes’ principal, Janet Henry, was put on leave in response to allegations by the state of widespread MCAS exam cheating at the school. Swan had been hired as the school’s development director last spring, shortly after finishing his sentence for a number of federal felony convictions, including rigging contracts at the publicly funded healthcare center he once ran. Henry subsequently said she had been pressured to hire Swan, that he rarely showed up for work and that he bullied staff, including trying to get her to sign off on a backdated “bonus check” because the state was seizing his regular paychecks to satisfy unpaid tax payments.
Last week, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said that he wants the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to revoke Hughes Academy’s charter at its next meeting, in January. Officials from Hughes will be allowed to present their side of the story before that vote, and to appeal the decision if the board does, indeed, revoke the charter. The school hopes to have a new director (the likely candidate appears to be Brian Calandruccio, who Flynn reports came to the school after the alleged MCAS cheating and has been running the school alongside Swan) in place by the end of the holiday break—before the education board’s meeting. Whether that change will be enough to persuade the state officials to let Hughes Academy retain its charter remains to be seen.