Founding Director Bowen Leaving BArT at End of School Year
ADAMS, Mass. — The founding director of Berkshire Arts & Technology Public Charter School will leave at the end of the school year.
Julia Bowen informed the BArT community by email on Wednesday afternoon that she was departing after 13 years guiding the region's first and only charter school.
"I feel confident that this work will continue long after my departure," she wrote. "Over the years, we have built a team that has the intelligence to take on new challenges, the wisdom to focus on the most important work and the moral clarity to do this with integrity and respect, always with students' best interests at heart. I couldn't have imagined we would have such a team back in 2003, when our founding group sat in an office in North Adams, dreaming up this school."
Bowen gave a desire to explore new career directions as the reason for her decision to resign effective June 30, 2017.
In a statement, the Board of Trustees said is accepted her decision "reluctantly."
"We wish Julia well as she seeks a new venue in which to deploy her excellent and multifaceted skills as a leader," said Trustees Chairman Charles Swabey. "At the same time, we are sad that BArT will no longer benefit from Julia's exceptionally talented leadership."
Swabey said a search committee comprised of several trustees and representatives of faculty, staff, and parents will conduct a national search for Bowen's replacement, giving time for her to help the new director to transition in the role. The search committee will first solicit input from the BArT community on preferred aspects for the new directory, interview preliminary candidates and put forward the best two or three finalists to the trustes.
Over the past 13 years, Bowen has seen the school grow from its opening of Grades 6 and 9 in rented space at Mount Greylock Regional School to a full 6-12 institution in the renovated One Commercial Street building, formerly an inn, restaurant and dentists offices.
She was selected to lead the school when it was awarded its charter in 2003 over 29 other applicants. According to reports at the time, it was her business experience, commitment to education reform, and knowledge of the community. A math teacher at Mount Greylock, she also had also worked for six years at the Boston-based Monitor Group, an international consulting company. Joining Mount Greylock in 2001, she had piloted innovative uses of technology in her classroom.
The charter school was not fully welcomed by some in the area, who saw it as a drain on public school financing, and an unsuccessful lawsuit attempted to prevent its opening. Funding continues to be a sore point, but the public charter school itself has come to be considered part of the regional educational community.
The school's enrollment is now near the cap of 363, up from the 308 limit originally planned when the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education approved the creation of the school, and an expansion of the school facility has been completed. It is a Level 1 school under the state's standardized tests, has instituted expanded day, and last year unveiled a $4.5 million, two-story addition.
This year, it graduated its 100th graduate, and all graduates are required to be accepted into a college or secondary school.
"The Board is mindful that BArT's achievements would not have been possible without Julia's leadership," Swabey said. "Julia found the school's facility and oversaw multiple renovations and expansions, opened the school in 2004, recruited and developed a high-quality administrative team, and led improvement in student growth and performance that has earned BArT numerous recognitions."
He said Bowen's talent at developing relationships with donors meant the school raised more than $1 million toward the recent renovation and expansion of the building. Over the years, she has also raised funds to improve the school's programs and better student achievement.