A Lowell charter’s odyssey

A new Lowell charter school found a temporary home at a Greek Orthodox church after being turned away by two other churches that apparently saw the charter as a competitive threat.

The Lowell Collegiate Charter School, run by the for-profit SABIS Educational Systems, will open this fall at the Transfiguration Greek Orthodox Church, using some on-site classrooms as well as modular classrooms that will be placed in the church’s parking lot. The president of the church council said the church will receive a six-figure rent for the coming year. Lowell Collegiate plans to move into rehabbed warehouse space the following year.

Lowell Collegiate’s odyssey was typical of many new charters. The charter surveyed the Lowell area and found several locations where classrooms were sitting empty, but their owners refused to rent to a school perceived as a competitive threat.

The closed Sacred Heart School was up for sale, but the Catholic Archdiocese of Boston attached a deed restriction to the 21,000-square-foot property prohibiting its use as a charter school. Jose Alfonso, director of business development for SABIS, said he reached out to church officials, including Cardinal Sean O’Malley, to no avail.

“Here we are providing educational opportunities to the underserved population the cardinal talks about wanting to serve, and for there to be a covenant that outright prohibits charter schools from using the property is unfortunate,” he told the Sun.

Terrence Donilon, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said the church doesn’t lease or sell classroom space to charters in areas in which the church has its own schools. Outside those areas, however, Donilon said the church will rent or sell to charters. The church’s practices were first detailed in a CommonWealth investigative report last year entitled, “What would Jesus do?”

SABIS also was turned down by the struggling Hellenic American Academy, which is owned by another Greek Orthodox church. Officials at the Academy declined comment other than to say that they are attempting to boost their own school’s enrollment.

                                                                                                                                                            –BRUCE MOHL

BEACON HILL

CommonWealth talks to Rep. Harold Naughton about his gun tour around the state and what he hopes to accomplish.

The Massachusetts Senate approves welfare reform legislation, NECN reports.

Keller@Large says compassion for convicted former House speaker Sal DiMasi is in short supply among politicians and wonders why the Devens federal prison medical facility is good enough for bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev but not the one-time North End rep who is suffering from tongue and throat cancer.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

How many times can a Boston police officer get fired by the department for misconduct and win his job back through the civil service arbitration system? Apparently at least two. An arbitrator ruled that officer David Williams, who was previously fired for lying to investigators about the beating of Boston officer Michael Cox, didn’t use excessive force when restraining a Middlesex sheriff’s deputy during an altercation in 2009.

A state grant has allowed the expansion of a mobile app that allows smartphone users to report problems such as potholes, faulty street lights, broken guardrails, and a myriad of non-emergency problems in 54 cities and towns.

Milford residents talk about their neighbor, the hitman John Martorano, who testified this week at Whitey Bulger’s trial.

MARATHON BOMBINGS

Organizers will broadcast the “Boston Strong” benefit concert on June 29 after the fundraising bash was the target of much anger because it wasn’t aired live and the online streaming was spotty.

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

House Speaker John Boehner was forced back to the drawing board after his farm bill fell to defeat because some of his GOP colleagues did not think a $20.5 billion cut to the food stamp program was sufficient.

An Internet sales tax bill seems stalled in the House, Governing reports.

ELECTIONS

A new survey from GOP pollster John McLaughlin has Gabriel Gomez within 3 points of Ed Markey, a much closer race than all other polls to this point. A UMass Lowell poll has Markey up by 20 points, the Lowell Sun reports. The Sun endorses Gomez, saying the Senate seat should not be a reward for Markey’s longevity in the House. On WBUR’s website, Gomez and Markey make written pitches for votes. Gomez says he’s an independent thinker. Markey says he’ll work to preserve the American dream. Gomez meets with 50 people at a South Coast event and tells them Cape Wind and South Coast Rail are too expensive.

Eight candidates for Boston mayor shared their views on education issues at a forum cosponsored by five organizations, including CommonWealth publisher MassINC, with sharp divides emerging on whether to lift the state cap on charter schools. EMILY’s List endorses Charlotte Golar Richie.

ARTS/CULTURE

Say it ain’t so: First Night Boston, the nonprofit that puts on the city’s 37-year-old New Year’s Eve arts extravaganza that has become a model for similar celebrations in other cities, is closing its doors, citing plummeting donations and sponsorship. Mayor Tom Menino vows that the show will go on in some form or another.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

A judge freezes the assets of Boston’s biggest taxi medallion owner, ruling that drivers have a “reasonable likelihood” of prevailing in a suit charging that they have been wrongly treated as independent contractors and not employes.

Massport and the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority are pushing ahead plans for a massive 1,200 to 1,500 room hotel near the Summer Street convention complex.

EDUCATION

The Rochester School Committee voted to adopt full-day kindergarten paid for by the town but selectmen are questioning why it wasn’t included in the budget voted on by Town Meeting last month.

A flash mob farewell to the retiring principal of Hingham Middle School goes viral.

TRANSPORTATION

The Callahan Tunnel will close for three months early next in order to have a major rehaul done on the 52-year-old artery between downtown Boston and East Boston. With work slated for the same time on the Longfellow Bridge and Government Center T station, some fear a “perfect storm of gridlock.”  

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT

Love that dirty water: 17 South Shore beaches, including 13 in Quincy, are closed because of bacteria contamination, just in time for the first weekend of summer.

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Agents from the FBI and the federal Health and Human Service’s Office of the Inspector General, which investigates waste, fraud and abuse in programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, removed boxes and computers from a Fall River patient therapy service.

The Globe reports that Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez “is not cooperating” with authorities investigating the murder of a Dorchester man whom Hernandez apparently knew whose bullet-riddled body was found in an industrial park near the player’s North Attleborough home.

MEDIA

California Gov. Jerry Brown backs away from a proposal that would let local governments ignore public records requests, saying he will now put it to voters in a ballot question, the Sacramento Bee reports.

Honolulu Civil Beat, a for-profit, no-ads news website in Hawaii with a hefty subscription price, partners with the Huffington Post, which offers its content for free and relies on ads to survive.

When the phone doesn’t ring: Maine Gov. Paul Le Page cuts off the Portland Press Herald,  state’s largest newspaper. The governor’s office will no longer respond to the paper’s queries.