Oswego’s Big Picture School Ready To Open In New Site

OSWEGO, NY – The BUC Junior-Senior High School is ready to open in its new home next month.

Principal Deb Smith greets a couple of the students and hands out their schedules
Principal Deb Smith greets a couple of the students and hands out their schedules

“Our district team really pulled together to get the school up and running on time. Our district building and grounds director, Dave Crisafulli, and his staff put our move from the portable classrooms on the middle school campus as one of their priorities and moved us – totally moved the whole contents of our school – in two days (into the lower level of the Education Center)! They were efficient, effective and great guys to work with,” said Principal Deb Smith. “Our district technology department was an integral part of our team, also. They were there right from the beginning, running wires, setting up our media classroom, putting in our teacher and student computers, hanging SmartBoards and getting us hooked up to the Internet!”

Dozens of students and their parents attended an open house and toured the new school site Wednesday night.

Smith told everyone to give themselves, “A big atta boy, atta girl!”

“We are incredibly lucky to be here at the Ed Center. It is amazing; in three days what our school district accomplished,” the principal told the crowd in one of the new classrooms. “Those of you who were here about a week and a half ago know this was the (board of education’s) board room. The board said that education is so important in Oswego that they gave up the board room. They love our school. They support our school 100%. So they literally moved heaven and earth and in the space of just a few days they cleared everybody out of here. They consolidated and they basically gave us this whole floor.”

A group of parents, students and staff listen as the principal welcomes everyone to the open house and explains about the school and its mission.
A group of parents, students and staff listen as the principal welcomes everyone to the open house and explains about the school and its mission.

Tyler Dohse is looking forward to the start of the school year.

“I came here to finish the Regents early,” he told Oswego County Today.

After high school he plans on attending college for graphic design.

Brett Collins said he did not like going to Oswego Middle School.

“It seemed like the teachers just tried to pass you on and get you out of there,” he explained. “Here your teachers actually show that they care. There have been times when I didn’t understand something and the teacher stopped the whole class and helped me out. Here you get that family, community atmosphere. In other schools, you’re just another kid going through the hallways.”

Derek Burnett agreed, adding his experience in other schools “wasn’t that great.”

“The teachers here are able to take more time with you – individually – when you need it,” he said. “They take a real interest in you and how well you do.”

Madison Bouchard said she thought it would be a better learning experience at the BUC School.

“I’m looking forward to my classes here. I’ve heard good things about the teachers here,” the incoming seventh grader said.

“By pulling together as a team, we accomplished the monumental task of moving our school within one work week,” the principal told the visitors. “You can’t get better teammates than that!”

And, take into consideration that that was only one of the moves they made.

“Our program size needed more space. So, folks at the Education Center moved out of rooms they were occupying to accommodate our program’s needs. Everyone – and I mean everyone – worked hard to make this move happen. Our community should be proud of how hard everyone worked to do this for our Oswego kids. Putting kids first is important,” she said.

Many people ask her to explain exactly what they do at the school.

The BUC is a Big Picture Learning Design School. It is based on the three founding principles of creating rigor in instruction, relevance to real world learning, and crafting relationships to the community. They run a school that rests on four pillars of instruction: academic success, college and career readiness, internships, and entrepreneurship.

“I have heard lots of rumors around town of what kind of school we are – and 99% of them are not true. We stress academic achievement, community involvement through community service, career exploration, and project based learning,” Smith said. “Many people say that only bad kids go here. That is not – absolutely not – true.”

Many people question the abilities of the kids that go here, she added.

Welcome to the BUC
Welcome to the BUC

“Our kids are bright, smart, and mostly kinestetic learners. Since our school is based on project learning, students get to experience education in more than just a pencil and paper way. Our kids still take and pass the high school Regents exams in order to get a high school diploma. We just teach the information differently,” she said. “Hands-on learning is more real and stays with you forever. For example, do you learn to ice skate better by having someone tell you how to do it, or really doing it? We think by putting on the ice skates and taking to the ice, you learn how to skate much better than just having someone tell you about it. And, that is what we do here at the BUC- experiential, hands-on, real world learning. We study the same curriculum as the regular schools, just in a different manner. We get the same degree as a regular high school.”

Many people from the Oswego community have visited the school and have volunteered to work with its students.

One person did cake decorating, another did a class on speech-making, and yet another did computer construction and security.

“We have volunteers that did art projects with our kids and even a grandpa that volunteered to come in to teach kids how to tie flies for fishing. We have visited college campuses and one of our ninth graders took his first college course this year in Western Civilization. He’s on track to become a teacher or an archeologist,” Smith said. “We have kids working in restaurants, learning to be small business owners. Have you ever heard a seventh grader talk about inventory control? Return on Investment? Operating costs? BUC students are actively becoming contributing members of our community as well as getting their NYS high school diploma.”

“I need to publicly recognize and thank Dave Crisafulli and his staff, Brendan Fear and his group, Bill Foley and Liz Woods, Deb Smith and her family for making a number of changes and demonstrating the cooperation and flexibility to open the BUC School on time. It’s really incredible. It’s absolutely incredible,” Interim Superintendent Gary Mix announced at this week’s school board meeting.

“The work ethic, the cooperation, the flexibility and respectful understanding of the needs of our students, the treatment everybody demonstrated to each other is something the district can use as a model and be very proud of. I wanted to recognize all of the people involved and thank them,” he continued. “It has been impressive to watch the changes that have happened in a very short period of time.”

Smith said they just got back from the Big Bang – which is the Big Picture School training program.

“We made such progress and had such wonderful results our first year that they asked us to present about our school. Our Regents rates last year were absolutely astounding. Everybody is pleased as punch with us; and the numbers speak for themselves,” she said. “Many people across the Big Picture network have been contacting us and we are going to have tons of visitors this year.”