May 27, 2024

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Sabis leaving Springfield; charter school to seek new name, curriculum

SPRINGFIELD — After 26 years being known as Sabis International Charter School, the Joan Street building will now have to seek a new name, curriculum and software system.

The extended contract between Springfield Education Management LLC, the local representative of the international Sabis education network, and the school’s board of trustees, ended June 30 due to a dispute regarding who is responsible for the school director.

“Sabis is proud to have been a part of the Springfield community for the last 26 years and extremely proud to have contributed to the school’s record of student achievement and financial stability,” said Amy Wesley, executive director of operations for Sabis Educational Systems.

Negotiations between the board and the management company have been contentious at times with accusations hurled from both sides. Most recently, the school claimed it had no access to student records from Wednesday, June 30, at 9 p.m. until Friday afternoon, July 2, when access was restored.

“Our administrators and teachers could not access those records,” said Atu White, trustees chairman.

Wesley said the school had access to the data through the proprietary Sabis software until Thursday, July 1, at 11:59 p.m.  From that point forward, the school has had access to its data, which was stored on its server before access to the Sabis software was removed.

The trustees and Sabis Educational Systems had been in negotiations since February 2020.

“We sincerely negotiated with them for a year and a half‚” White said. “What we asked for was a six-month management extension for the purpose of transitioning the school. That’s not unreasonable, they were going to be compensated and they declined. “

Wesley said leaving in the middle of the school year was not feasible for them.

“We want the best for the students, but cannot agree to the board’s request that we continue to manage the school for six months and leave our students in the middle of a school year,” Wesley said. “This would subject the students to a change in curriculum mid-year, which would certainly adversely affect their education.”

Board member John Delaney was not present for the June 30 meeting when the contract expired, but has consistently expressed support for Sabis.

“I’m disappointed as a board member that we could not reach an agreement. Sabis has been a great learning institution for decades,” he said.

Delaney said now the board has to move forward to make sure students continue to get a quality education.

“I am confident in the board’s ability combined with our director to guide this school to continued first class education,” he said.

Parents and teachers have expressed support, as well as frustration, with Sabis management over the years. One of the biggest complaints was about the rigid curriculum, constant testing and quick pacing that does not allow teachers to thoroughly explore some topics when students need more time to learn. One also said they have tried to offer students more culturally-diverse literature but it was never permitted.

“I love this school and I don’t want it to seem that it is all negative,” said Shirley Vazquez, the academic quality controller for kindergarten through grade 2. “There are some wonderful things in this school, we just need some change and some flexibility.”

Under Sabis management, the school has achieved 100{13aab5633489a05526ae1065595c074aeca3e93df6390063fabaebff206207ec} college placement for graduating seniors, helped graduates earn millions of dollars of scholarships annually, and built an $11 million cash surplus, Wesley said.

“Our commitment has always been to the students and their families. It is the very reason we accepted Springfield’s invitation to establish the school 26 years ago and risked our own money to build a campus for the benefit of the students and their families,” she said.

The board will hold a meeting on Tuesday, July 6, at 6 p.m. on Zoom as well as a virtual and in-person informational meeting at the school on Thursday, July 8 at 6 p.m. for staff, parents and students who may have questions about what comes next.

The Tuesday meeting agenda will include discussions about the name of the school, the new leadership team at the school, possible consultants that can assist with the transition and quotes for the software that will be used for assessments and student records, White said.

He said he is excited about this new phase for the school.

“It was long overdue. The Sabis that people love exists because of the teachers, because of the administrators and that is what we are enhancing, growing and developing,” White said. “The legacy is based on the brilliant minds in Springfield — not a company based in Minnesota and Lebanon.”

The Republican reporter Jeanette Deforge contributed to this article.

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