State BOE ok’s FUSE-less New Haven charter school

HARTFORD – A new New Haven charter school that had to reinvent itself after the scandalous collapse of its planned partner, Family Urban Schools of Excellence, will be allowed to open in the fall.

The state Board of Education voted unanimously on Monday to allow the Booker T. Washington Academy Charter School to open with fewer students and two weeks into September.

The approval – for three years instead of five – came along with a host of conditions that seeks to ensure the school has enough funding and students.

Instead of 225 students and three grades, the school will hope with just 120 kindergarten and first graders, assuming it can get the students. As of Monday the school had 74 applicants.

Rev. Edren Morrison, founder of the school, told the board he is confident that once the state approval is given, students and parents will apply to the school.

School founders are also counting on raising $1 million between now and the start of school to help it meet its budget. Former New Haven Schools Superintendent Reginald Mayo, who is acting as a mentor to the charter school’s new director, John Taylor, said he is confident it can be done.

The school won original approval from the state in April but had to go back to the drawing board after it was learned FUSE director Michael Sharpe had a criminal past and lied about having a doctoral degree. FUSE’s hiring practices also came under fire.

Morrison told the board at least the FUSE debacle happened before his school opened. Taylor previously ran the all-boys Green Tech High School, an Albany charter school. School staff will get training and support from Achievement First Charter Schools and will sublease one of its spaces to the school temporarily in the Dixwell-Newhallville area of the city.

The board was told the donations – which amounts to about 40 percent of the school’s first year operating budget – and students will materialize once the word gets out.

Other conditions the new school will have to live by: all employees and board members must submit to background checks, it must give a progress report in a year and will receive regular site visits from the state.

Linda Lambeck