OSWEGO, NY – A renaissance in education is under way in the Port City. Two women have begun the task of creating a charter school in Oswego.
If everything goes well, the school will be open in 2013.
“The Charter School Project is my personal initiative, after I decided to homeschool my daughter. I watched a video entitled ‘Stupid in America’ and the last 15 minutes of that movie dealt with public charter schools as an alternative to existing ‘standard’ public schools,” Rodica Ieta explained.
She and Melissa Webb have done almost two years of research on trends in education reform, alternative curricula, and teaching innovations aiming at cultivating student creativity and natural potential/inclinations.
The pair held an informational meeting Monday night at Oswego Public Library. More than three dozen people attended the hour-long session to hear about the plans and to ask questions.
Audience members included Oswego City School District Superintendent Bill Crist and school board member Fran Hoefer.
Ieta and Webb, both part-time SUNY Oswego English instructors, said they would schedule a second meeting to update the public and allow for further exchange of information.
“The more we researched the topic, the more we realized the potential of charter schools to reform education and to contribute to synergistic relations with the existing schools,” Ieta explained. “Charter schools have the freedom to develop their own curriculum, based on a philosophy expressed in their mission; they are free to experiment, innovate and test in ways that may be harder to implement otherwise.”
Renaissance Charter School of Oswego plans to start with grades five and six (two classes each) and carry on through high school, while feeding two new grade five classes every year.
The projected opening date is September 2013.
The application will be forwarded to the SUNY Board of Trustees at the end of February 2012.
“The school’s curriculum is projected to follow the classical education philosophy, also known as the core curriculum,” Ieta said. “Students will study English language and literature, foreign languages (one foreign language in grade five and a second one added in grade six), mathematics, physics, biology, chemistry, world and US history, world and US geography, philosophy, logic, computer science, economics, anthropology.”
The school day will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Students would study the core subjects (including science, math, English and humanities) in the morning. That would be followed by an hour of lunch and recess. Foreign language studies as well as music, art and phys ed would round out the afternoon.
There will also be foreign student exchanges with other countries, beginning with the province of Quebec, Canada.
“We aim at offering strong foundations for a liberal education, focusing on the sciences and the arts, to build responsible, well-rounded and highly skillful citizens,” Ieta added. “We plan to recruit and train specialized teachers for each individual discipline.”
Charter schools are completely funded by the state. Students can come from neighboring districts, Ieta and Webb said; however, preference will be given to Oswego (school district) students.
All students who want to apply will be given the opportunity.
If approved, the new charter school would start off with two classes each of fifth-graders and sixth-graders; 20 students in each class with two classes of each for a total of 80 students.
“Each year we would feed two classes of grade five from the bottom,” Ieta said.
If more students apply than there are openings, a lottery would be held.
Students in a charter school have to pass the same state assessment tests as students in public schools, Ieta pointed out.
“The charter schools are independent and they can develop their own curriculum based on the philosophy expressed in their missions,” Ieta said.
While they have to adhere to the state Education Department guidelines, charter schools will have more leeway in how subjects are taught, she added.
The plan is to recruit specialized teachers for each subject.
Usually, a charter school will get 65 percent of whatever a public school gets per student.
Organizers will be collaborating with various SUNY Oswego faculty who embrace the school’s philosophy and mission.
“What a small school can do is bring that sense of community and safety and perhaps explore options that maybe more difficult to do in a larger school,” Webb said.
“We need diversity for our students,” Hoefer said. “I am totally in favor of what you’re trying to do, and I want to offer you every assistance that I can give in any way. I think what you’re doing is fundamental to the future of our country and this community where we live.”
For more information about the proposed school, visit oswegocharterschool.org
For general information, visit http://www.p12.nysed.gov/psc/startcharter.html