Oswego Charter School Plan Moving Forward Again

OSWEGO, NY – Organizers of the Renaissance Charter School of Oswego took a step backward last summer so they can leap ahead now.

An hour wasn’t enough for the 15 people attending Thursday night’s public meeting on the proposed school. The meeting was scheduled for 5 to 6 p.m. in the community room at the Oswego Public Library. Most, however, stayed nearly an hour more, chatting amongst themselves or with Rodica Ieta, one of the organizers and a visiting assistant professor at SUNY Oswego.

Organizers withdrew their application to the state Charter Schools Institute in August 2012, but promised to resubmit it this year.

“The reviewers (of the application) recommended some changes. So, we have very solid feedback from them and we are working on that and we’ve made progress in other ways as well,” Ieta said.

The lack of choice in the Oswego region (for alternative education) was a key rationale for trying to start a charter school, the group noted in last year’s application; a point that was well received by the reviewers, Ieta said.

“That is our main rationale, that there is no other alternative,” she added.

They also changed the focus of the grades to just 5 and 6 for now. Previously they had included middle and high school.

“They (reviewers) want to see success at one level before you go to high school,” she said. “So we chose to do middle school, grades 5 through 8.”

Those attending Thursday’s meeting had many questions about the proposed school.

They wanted to know if young children can handle going to school from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., how the school would be financed, how pupils will be chosen, what classes would be offered and more.

Children at charter schools do have to the same state assessment tests as other students, Ieta said. Charter school teachers would do more than just “teach to the test,” she added.

The philosophy of the school hasn’t changed, she said.

It still is geared for grades five and six with class sizes ranging from to 15 to 16 students. They will have teachers for each subject offered. The charter school will follow the curriculum set by the state Education Department, but will have more leeway in how subjects are taught, she explained.

The theme will be global awareness.

“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.”

Students would be introduced to physics in grade 6 and chemistry in grade 7.

Ieta said she believes a charter school is needed because students in public schools lack choices in what they study, are not allowed much interaction with their peers and do not have any (“fresh air”) breaks during the school day.

According to their original tentative plan, 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.

“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,” Ieta told the crowd.

“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.”

All students who want to apply will be given the opportunity.

“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.

“One of the things that will be our guiding light, if you want, is creativity,” Ieta said. “We want to do more intense training in the areas that the students want to focus more on.”

Organizers will be collaborating with various SUNY Oswego faculty who embrace the school’s philosophy and mission. They are also looking for others from various fields who would like to volunteer.

The plan to create a charter school remains fluid, a work in progress, Ieta pointed out. They welcome more community input, she said.

For more information about the proposed school, visit oswegocharterschool.org