OSWEGO, NY – The hats may be red. But the students are true blue Oswego Buccaneers.
At Tuesday night’s board of education meeting, Debra Smith handed out the baseball caps with The Buc on the front to the board members as she began her update of The Buccaneer Junior-Senior High School.
The school is set to open for its inaugural academic year next month.
“The Big Picture philosophy is to educate one student at a time in a community of fellow learners,” she told the board members. “They definitely stress the three R’s – Relationships for the students; making it Relevant to what they would do in the real world; and Rigors, making sure that the curriculum that they provide is not a watered-down curriculum.”
Why This Works
“Anything with a low student-teacher ratio where you have people that care about you and you have people you are in contact with every day really helps with the personalization factor and makes kid want to come to school,” Smith explained. “We are going to provide internships in grades 11 and 12.”
College courses will also be available to the students, she added.
Students in grades 7 through 10 will be actively involved in community service projects, “as well as providing other project based learning opportunities in the community,” she said.
“So, basically what we are talking about is authentic experiences with real life mentors – less paper and pencil tasks,” she pointed out.
They will still do the same Regents curriculum, Smith said.
The students’ individual interests will help drive how their curriculum works out.
“Part of this program is (the students) all have to apply to a college. They may not choose to go there, but they have to apply for it,” she said. “We want them to understand the importance of setting a goal for future education to become lifelong learners.”
More than 200 people attended their informational open house June 5.
The deadline to get applications in was June 8.
“That first night, there were over 75 (applications) and by the time we were done … we had a phone call from another student who wanted to know if it was too late to apply; they had just moved into our district,” Smith said.
If they accepted everyone, they would have had more than 85 students, she added.
They then conducted interviews with the applicants.
As soon as they finished, they sent out notifications and put the registration papers with them.
“Everybody but one student accepted. And, it is my understanding that one student is leaving the district,” she said.
They are now going to meet with every accepted student and work out a year-long curriculum, an individual learning plan.
The Most Asked Questions
Parents wanted to know if the school had the same benefits as other schools.
The answer is yes, Smith said. They do get busing, they get the same free and reduced lunches, the can participate in sports, they can participate in music, she said.
“This is a school like any other school in our district. You get the same buy-ins as any other student,” she said.
The parents also asked about a nurse for the school. One is on call, mostly from the middle school, Smith said.
They were also concerned about the type of diploma students would receive.
“Even though we told them that it was a Regents diploma, they were very concerned because they couldn’t see how it could work,” she said. The students get the same subjects they need for the diploma. It’s the same standards, only done differently, Smith explained.
“It is a project based learning school. But we do want more community and family involvement,” Smith continued. “The visibility in the community, we think, is extremely important. We are having a fall family activity; we aren’t sure what it is yet. In the spring, we are going to have a pancake breakfast. That’s because of our entrepreneurship segment to the Big Picture program.”
A typical day at the school will be “very fluid and flexible,” Smith said.
On Monday, Wednesday and Friday they have a circle with breakfast and lay out the tasks for the day. They are broken up into advisories, do their prep for the day and week in small groups.
They do a large group lunch to all everyone to bond as a community.
Individual lessons are held in the afternoon. Most of their learning will be through their projects.
On Tuesdays and Thursdays they do a community building function and then all sorts of community service projects.
The first project is a “picnic table quest,” Smith pointed out.
They are working out of the portable classrooms currently and are already at capacity.
“We’re going to be too big next year when we bring in another 15 students. So we are looking at other options,” she told the board.
If they want to move into their own site, they have to start the process soon to be able to be in the facility by next September, she said.
She invited everyone to the 12:45 p.m. Sept. 5 ribbon cutting celebration at the new school.
“We always can use volunteers,” she added. “You are always welcome. Our doors are always open. Our number one need at this point is to get community sponsors, community mentors, things for us to do in the community with our kids.”