Schenectady County

Parents ponder education options

Parents of students currently at the International Charter School of Schenectady were school shoppin

Parents of students currently at the International Charter School of Schenectady were school shopping on Wednesday, as they sought other options for their children for next year.

About 50 parents attended an informational meeting held at the former Draper School to learn about the Albany charter schools and a few parochial schools. ICSS is closing at the end of the academic year. Parents talked with school representatives at tables in the gymnasium. Many of the schools require uniforms, offer extended-day programs and a variety of activities.

Lorrie Robinson, who was looking for a school for her 10-year-old daughter Sade Payne, said she liked that charter schools make the students wear uniforms. “It keeps them not so much focused on material things,” she said.

However, she worried about the transportation to Albany. Schenectady School District officials have said they will not bus students out of district, except for special education. Parents would be stuck with providing transportation unless the Albany charter schools offer busing, which some are considering.

ICSS has roughly 557 students currently. Nearly all are residents of Schenectady.

Dennis Bye, a seventh-grade science teacher at Albany Preparatory Academy, a fifth- through seventh-grade school, said the school would consider busing students if they had sufficient numbers.

He explained that the school has about 150 students who are focused on getting ready for college. The students wear uniforms and are not allowed to wear jewelry or makeup. They have small classes of 15 students each for English and math.

Achievement Academy Principal O’Rita Swan said her fifth- through eighth-grade school is also considering busing. Her school offers an extended day from 8:30 to 5 p.m. and they focus on a curriculum promoting hard work and respect.

Lillian Turner, principal of Henry Johnson Charter School, said character education is the centerpiece of its curriculum.

“Children need to develop habits of character and values that are going to support their academic activities,” she said.

It also features three hours daily of literacy instruction in addition to the core subject areas. The school currently has 115 students in kindergarten and first grade, but ultimately hopes to expand to fourth grade.

Andrea Ralph, assistant principal of New Covenant Charter School — a kindergarten through sixth-grade school — said the school offers swimming, etiquette instruction for women, chess club and other activities. The school day runs from 7:30 to 4 p.m. and after school activities from 4 to 5:30 p.m. It also offers school on Saturday and on holidays.

K.I.P.P. Tech Valley School — a fifth- through eighth-grade school, also has Saturday instruction.

Neal Currie, principal of the Albany Community Charter School, which offers kindergarten through second-grade instruction, said the school tries to promote a community feeling, safe environment and high expectations.

Also attending were representatives from St. Helen’s School, St. John the Evangelist and Notre Dame-Bishop Gibbons.

Sister Mary Joseph, a third-grade teacher at St. Helen’s — a kindergarten through fifth-grade school — said they are holding open enrollment. They offer a variety of before- and after-school activities including computers,

Karen Southerland said she believes her daughter was getting a better education at the charter school. She said the teachers at city schools do not listen and there are fights.

Safety was also a concern for Katiria Couvertier, who has three children attending ICSS. She said she really does not want them going to public schools, which she said have a reputation for violence and drugs.

Another parent, Jahaira Acosta, said the public schools do not offer the individual attention to the students. “They’re just a number and money,” she said.

ICSS Board President Tracy Petersen said she put her own daughter in the charter school because she was not satisfied with the safety and climate at public schools. Petersen said the charter school is trying to arrange a forum for the public schools to come and talk since this forum was just for charter and religious schools.

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