2 more magnet schools set up in Amsterdam

Greater Amsterdam School District parents will have a greater choice in their children’s education i
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Greater Amsterdam School District parents will have a greater choice in their children’s education in September after the school board authorized change of the district’s remaining two elementary schools to magnet formats.

The new proposal would convert Barkley and Tecler elementary schools into magnet schools.

The district’s magnet school program started in September 2005 with the Raphael J. McNulty Academy for International Studies and Literacy. The Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications formed last September. District officials said both schools have been successful.

“They have generated a great deal of parent and community interest,” said Susanne Dorr, director of the district’s state and federal projects.

New York is one of two states in the country to provide funding for magnet schools. The Greater Amsterdam School District is receiving $1.2 million this year toward current magnet school programs and the planning involved to create the two new magnet schools. Dorr said the conversion to magnet schools isn’t expected to translate into increased operating costs.

The Marie Curie Institute of Engineering and Communications, the district’s second magnet school to come on line, is in its first year. Principal Mary Mathey said the venture has proved both challenging and exciting, but she feels the school board made the right choice to convert the remaining two elementary schools.

Mathey said money Marie Curie has qualified for from the state allowed the school to purchase materials and equipment that it wouldn’t have been able to obtain through the district’s regular budget, including smart boards, wireless laptops and science kits.

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum & Instruction Nellie Bush said magnet schools have enhanced educational programs surrounding the school’s theme and additional opportunities for professional development.

But magnet schools’ greatest feature is they allow for more choice in a child’s education, she said.

For example, a student who lives in an area where he or she would normally attend Barkley could instead choose to attend the Marie Curie Institute. Furthermore, if a family moves within the school district, the child can continue attending the same school, creating continuity in the child’s education, she said.

“Now parents will have four different elementary schools to choose from,” Bush said.

Barkley Elementary School will have a “micro-society” theme. Principal Rich Capel said students who attend Barkely in September will have time each day set aside for students to participate in different “ventures to promote an understanding of democracy, economy and citizenship.”

Capel said students will take on the roles of lawyers, judges, businesspeople and police, among others. He said students will take a role in their education and work to involve local government and business leaders along with parents to create and maintain a sense of community at the school.

“The kids will really see that what you learn in school has an impact,” Capel said. “You can use math and academic skills every day.”

Tecler Elementary School will have a performing arts theme.

“We are happy about that because a lot of children have an untapped artistic ability and we have found that students who may not excel academically excel in the arts,” Bush said.

There will be a lottery system for parents who want to send a child to a magnet school other than the one in their neighborhood. A consultant will conduct the lottery, which is scheduled for the second week of May, Dorr said.

“The consultant uses computerized software so the selection is completely random,” Dorr said.

Parents who wish to enter the lottery have to fill out an application. The application deadline has not been finalized, Dorr said.

Categories: Schenectady County

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