Modesto Montero is no stranger to the struggle of growing up in a low-income environment. Born in the Dominican Republic, Montero describes his early life as that of extreme poverty and states that his education was “inadequate.” When he was ten years old,
Montero moved to Massachusetts. “I was afforded the opportunity to receive an excellent education. I was held to very high academic and behavioral expectations.” By his senior year of high school, he knew he would go to college.“Those experiences continue to drive everything I do. I don’t just know what is possible- I am living proof.”
Montero graduated from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2011 with a degree in Political Science. Right after graduation, he joined Teach for America a and was stationed in Memphis, Tennessee, Montero taught middle schoolers until he reached his tenure. After his teaching stint, he entered into a coaching role with the program. Montero was interested in providing a better education, than the one he was given, to children of poverty. Around this time, Montero proposed his biggest project: a charter school in Springfield, Massachusetts
Montero’s life journey has lead him to found and lead this charter school in Springfield, MA where he will hold the title of “Head of School.” “There’s a huge need for schools here.” The school is to be called Libertas Academy Charter School. Libertas, meaning “freedom” in Latin, will be free for families and children will be selected through a random lottery.
It is set to open in 2017 with only one grade to begin with. The school will kick-off with 90 sixth graders and will add another grade with another 90 students each year. “By 2023, we should have 630 students in seven grades (6th through 12th grade).”
Montero is working with Building Excellent Schools Fellowship to make this idea a reality. This program is a non-profit organization that works to open independently-run charter schools. This school will vary slightly from the average middle-high school. There will be a heavy focus on academics at the beginning. “We understand the value in providing enrichment and extracurricular programs to our students,” he stressed. However, students in Springfield are currently underperforming in academics and that’s where he wants the primary focus to be. “Students are performing by evidence of [Springfield] being a level four school.”
According to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE), “All Massachusetts districts and schools with sufficient data are classified into one of five accountability and assistance levels, with the highest performing in Level 1 and lowest performing in Level 5. Massachusetts uses the Progress and Performance Index (PPI) to assess the improvement of each district and school toward its own targets.”
The PPI combines information about narrowing proficiency gaps, growth, and graduation and dropout rates into a single number. This number is an indication of the school’s overall performance relative to other schools that serve the same or similar grades. State law requires ESE to classify schools into Level 3 if they are among the lowest 20% of schools relative to other schools in the same grade span (percentiles 1-20).” (http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/accountability.aspx?mode=school)
“The goal of [this school] is to put every student to college.”
Montero and team are currently on the lookout for a facility to place their school. They are hoping to find an already constructed building to help speed-along the effort.
Modesto and his team truly believe that every student can succeed given the proper education as attested by the school’s mission : “Through rigorous academics, character development, and strong supports for every learner, Libertas Academy Charter School prepares all sixth through twelfth grade to be positive, engaged members of their communities.”