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Board affirms current co-leaders; holds off on One App for 2012-13

At their Oct. 11 board of directors meeting, the Advocates for Science and Mathematics Education Inc. heard the pros and cons of One App, the Recovery School District’s (RSD) blanket application for student enrollment.

Rose Peterson, Director of the Eastbank Collaborative of Charter Schools, of which Sci High is a member, was critical of One App. She noted that Sci High officials had expressed concerns that a move away from on-site enrollment might hinder relationship-building between the school and students’ families. Peterson also noted an overall problem with the way One App places students.

“There’s a feeling of a loss of autonomy when you turn over enrollment to a third party,” Peterson said. “RSD is assigning students to schools when state law says even a school board can’t do that. “

“The (school) assignment is problematic,” Peterson said. “There’s maybe a loss of parental rights there too. There is also a loss of residency, sibling and guardianship verification. Things can be changed and improved, but we haven’t seen an articulated plan.”

Gabriela Fighetti, Director of Student Enrollment for the RSD, responded by saying that One App was simply an enrollment process change, not a policy change.

Fighetti offered examples of instances where the RSD’s One App program can help a school.

“We would work with you if you get too many kids. We can facilitate a transfer to somewhere else within the system, and not assign you any new students. Also, we can find those students that maybe wanted something more than Sci High can offer, and help move some kids off the roster, again to other schools within the system,” Fighetti said.

“I agree it’s a leap of faith,” Fighetti continued, “a leap that 66 of our schools took last year.”

“There were wrinkles in the road, but if you ask any of them, I think they would all say that their concerns were heard. We are designing something with schools. We’re not handing you a book with policies, that’s not the way we do it. We work together as a community of educators, these are kids’ lives and really big decisions.”

Sci High Director of Academics Claire Jecklin agreed that the system can work, but recommended Sci High hold off on switching enrollment procedures.

“It’s more of a question of our timeline,” Jecklin explained, “not whether or not One App does these things but whether it does them better than we do, and if this is the year. We definitely want to be a part of the process, but I question if we can afford it not to work for us. My recommendation is we wait until next year. Right now there are too many questions, and we can’t afford to have a rough transition year.”

A motion was made and passed to leave the final decision about One App to Jecklin.

Board chairwoman Mary Zervigon spoke on behalf of an ad hoc committee on school leadership, addressing the recent resignation of School Director Richard Best.

She said “[Best’s] resignation didn’t cause many great changes in the school, partly because he wasn’t able to be there much. However, everyone hungers for stability.”

Sci High student Victoria Carter shared her experiences under the current co-leadership model, and praised the work of Jecklin and Director of Student Development Chana Benenson.

“At Sci High I’ve actually felt there are adults who care about my education for the first time. I was here under previous administrations, and there were some hiccups. During past leadership transitions, I was disappointed,” Carter said.

Carter went on to call Jecklin and Benenson role models, and stated that because of Sci High teachers, she now wants to go into the profession herself.

After a 15-minute executive session, the board said it would not be searching for a new leader at this time, and that Sci High would continue under the current co-leadership of Jecklin and Benenson.

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