SCHENECTADY – The would-be founder of a kindergarten through Grade 5 charter school said Sunday there’s a “very strong chance that we’ll be opening next year.”
Re’Shawn Rogers, proposed founder and head of schools for the Destine Preparatory Charter School, made the assertion in advance of a state-mandated public hearing about the proposed school. The hearing is at 6 p.m. Wednesday at Schenectady High School.
In July, an application to open Destine Preparatory Charter School was resubmitted to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, which bills itself as the fifth largest authorizer of charter schools in the U.S.
The resubmission was on the heels of it withdrawing its initial bid after a March public hearing in which members of the community pushed back on the proposal.
Reached Sunday, Rogers said “the school is approved” by the SUNY Charter Schools Institute, “and so we are planning to open in the fall of next year.”
The proposal would also have to go before the Board of Regents for finalization, said Rogers, a former Brooklyn charter school educator.
During the March 24 hearing on the original application, community members, including Schenectady teachers, said the focus should be on improving the city’s existing district schools.
Rogers and Destine Preparatory Charter School’s proposed board members who joined the virtual forum, argued the school would give parents another academic choice in a city where the schools have long struggled with student outcomes.
The proposed school’s mission is to develop scholars “to become future change makers through rigorous academics, social and emotional learning, and affirmation of their identities,” according to the application.
It aims to open August 2022 with a first-year enrollment of 116 students, expanding to 174 students in Year 2, with 435 students by Year 5.
The application, which points to several of what it deems as the Schenectady City School District’s shortcomings, asserted “all scholars and families deserve to choose a school that prepares their child for life and career success.”
The application mentions that 24% of students in Grades 3-8 in Schenectady were proficient in reading, and 16% were proficient in math in 2019.
The proposed charter school would exist to close opportunity gaps for students across Schenectady, specifically those who reside in Hamilton Hill, Mont Pleasant, Vale and Eastern Avenue neighborhoods, with Vale and Hamilton Hill among the city’s most poverty-stricken neighborhoods, and nearly half of its residents Black, the application said.
The proposal also noted that students in neighborhoods it would target often enroll at Schenectady High School, which had a graduation rate of 64% in 2020, ranking in the bottom half of high schools across the state, and 18% below the state average.
If approved, the Schenectady school would join more than 400 charter schools across the state as of July 1, according to the New York State Education Department.
“There are over 300 families currently sending their children to charter schools in Albany and Troy,” Rogers said, “and families should have access to great options within Schenectady.”
Charter schools are publicly funded and open to students through a non-discriminatory admissions lottery.
According to the state, each charter school is governed by a non-profit board of trustees which may include educators, community members, and leaders from the private sector.
The Schenectady charter school’s proposed board chairwoman is Schenectady lawyer Raysheea Turner.
Mark Muscatiello, the proposed vice chairman, has 15 years of experience managing the operations of schools, including Uncommon’s Troy Preparatory Charter School, according to the Destine Preparatory Charter School’s website.
Accountable for student achievement through a five-year performance contract, charters can establish their own policies, design their own educational program, and manage their human and financial resources, according to the state.
Critics of charter schools have long argued that they take funding from district schools, and, because of lower salaries and longer work hours, have higher teacher turnover than public school educators, according to an article published by Harvard University.