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Vision Quest Community School may provide an answer to charters

April 7th, 2014

A group of RCSD parents and teachers is seeking to open a new elementary school called Vision Quest Community School.
A group of concerned parents and teachers from the Rochester City School District is seeking to open a new kind of elementary school. Their idea is to build on the success of School Of The Arts (SOTA) by offering a similar interdisciplinary curriculum in the K–6 grade levels; a curriculum that is “rich in creative expression” and with a greater focus on the individual child.

Their proposal is being called Vision Quest Community School and the group will make a presentation to Superintendent Vargas on April 21…

A group of RCSD parents and teachers is seeking to open a new elementary school called Vision Quest Community School.
You’d be hard pressed to find someone who doesn’t feel that our city schools are failing us. Charter schools may be one answer. A recent RBJ article external link reports that last year four out of five New York charter schools outperformed the district schools where they were located.

The downside is that charter schools are somewhat exclusive. Lack of special education services discourage special-education enrollment. And lack of transportation will often filter out the lowest-income families.

Stacie Colaprete of the Susan B. Anthony neighborhood says she trucks her 6-year-old son all the way to School 52 external link from the west side of the city. “It was the best I could do for him after not getting into Genesee Community Charter or World of Inquiry external link.

Colaprete has been involved with the planning of the new Vision Quest school and would like to see it to open it in the southwest quadrant. “We are lacking options in our area,” she says, “especially with all of the talk of school closings and the renovations that sent our neighborhood kids to Freddy Thomas.”

A group of RCSD parents and teachers is seeking to open a new elementary school called Vision Quest Community School.
According to the draft proposal (PDF), Vision Quest will offer children “the space, freedom, and time to be creative in their learning.”

  • The school will be a visual & performing arts magnet school offering instruction in dance, choir, drama, instrumental music, painting, drawing, sculpture, pottery, photography, and audio/visual systems
  • Classroom teachers will incorporate the arts into their curriculum
  • School curriculum will be teacher-created, inquiry-based, hands-on, and centered around the Common Core ELA and Math standards, NYS standards for Social Studies, and NGSS standards
  • The school will employ an “active learning model” meaning students will take on the roles of scientists, historians, and community members as they learn; classrooms will be discussion-based; assignments will project-based; and students will participate in field studies
  • Assessments will be performance-based; students will be assessed according to their own skill levels and compared only with themselves
  • All students will participate in enrichment clubs such as Science Olympiads, Mathletes, community service, cooking, sewing, gardening/sustainability, fitness, music, theater, photography, robotics, debate, first aid, computer programming & design
  • The school and classroom environment will be one of mutual respect and rapport between school staff, students, and families
  • Family involvement and communication will be integral; policies will include mandatory parent/family volunteer time
  • Students, teachers, and families will all be asked to sign a memorandum to ensure policies regarding attendance, discipline, dress code, and general student preparedness requirements are met
  • There would be three classes per grade level with no more than 15 students per classroom
  • The school day would be 8 hours or more
  • The school year would run Sep. 1 – June 30

It’s important to point out that Vision Quest Community School would NOT be a charter school. If approved by the superintendent and the school board, Vision Quest would be a city school funded by the district. The difference would be that the school would have the autonomy to select its own teachers/staff and governance committee, set its own school day and calendar, determine its own approach to teaching/instruction/assessments, and construct its own budget. And it’s likely the school would look for additional funding from private donors and businesses. The planning committee is currently seeking partnerships with local colleges and community organizations (they already have commitments from Rochester Institute of Technology, Casual Fridays, Girls On The Run, The Felt Queen, and another from The Good Food Collective to provide locally grown produce for the cafeteria).

Colaprete sees our struggling city schools as something that has deep implications for our neighborhoods and the Rochester economy over the long run. “I see many of my friends leaving the city when they have kids – they make an attempt to get them into [charter schools] and if that doesn’t work, up they go to Brighton,” she says. “This is a problem that goes well beyond how bad the schools are.”

• • •

Get Involved

If you’re interested in learning more about Vision Quest Community School and would like to attend the presentation to Superintendent Vargas (April 21st, 5:30pm, at 131 W. Broad Street external link) please send an email to info@rochestersubway.com.

You can also visit Vision Quest Community School on Facebook external link

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This entry was posted on Monday, April 7th, 2014 at 7:50 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Rochester News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

5 Responses to “Vision Quest Community School may provide an answer to charters”

  1. James says:

    There is an arts based K-6 charter school opening this August. The Renaissance Academy Charter School of the Arts (www.renacad.org). The above proposed idea is very similar to this new charter school, but hey, why not have a couple options? I’m all for it.

  2. @James, thanks. I agree, a few options is good. Please note, per the article, this proposal would not be a charter school. It would be within the RCSD.

  3. Alison says:

    The other major difference that Vision Quest offers from the charter arts school is the RIT partnership. RIT has committed to working with Vision Quest to turn the school into a teaching lab site for its science education 4+1 students that it shares with Nazareth, with the RIT students working with Vision Quest staffers to support real life experiments in conjunction with the students’ project based learning.

  4. Benjamin says:

    This sounds like a great idea to offer options to students. My question is why don’t they start to offer different programs within the existing schools instead of cutting them and then looking into different options. How do they tell what a student is going to excel at without giving them the opportunity first? We can all sit here and say yeah lets add another SOA charter school but how does that solve the current issue. I don’t even think we can sit here and blame the school system. Why? Education begins at home. If parents aren’t encouraging the children to learn and making sure they are attending school how can we expect the system to work? I lived in the city for many years and saw many examples of kids just roaming the streets at all hours. Going to school was an option in their mind. I say get the parents involved and hold them accountable for their actions.

  5. Stacie says:

    Benjamin,
    You made several points I’d like to respond to. First, the infamous “they” have tried as you suggest – offering different programs within existing schools – with some limited success. I think to a certain extent you can blame the school system, because politics and regulations have hampered innovation and individualization, as occurs with any large organization. This however, is a cultural problem that is deeply ingrained. The vote of no confidence against Dr. Vargas is an interesting example. At the risk of overly generalizing them, my observation was – the administrators brought this vote – the teachers generally disagreed. In my opinion, there is something deeply dysfunctional with the culture of a district whose administrators and teachers hold opposite opinions on a superintendent, when these people are supposed to be working together. So I would argue, that “giving them an opportunity” necessitates at least the option of removal from that environment. On the other side of that coin is the plan for this school NOT to be a charter school. We would like to see the city school district working, we don’t want to remove kids from the district. School of the Arts works. School Without Walls Works, World of Inquiry works, why wouldn’t we want more schools like that? The market within the district will drive students to them, and given enough of them, failing schools will eventually naturally close. As to your point about parents, we absolutely agree. Which is why our model requires parent participation and attendance regulation. However, I would argue that the district itself can do very little to get parents involved. Motivating people to participate is about relationships, and robo calls, healthy eating events and mass mailings will not accomplish that – personal relationships, phone calls, making sure that legitimate needs are met will accomplish that, and that is something that can only be done by the school faculty. And finally a disclaimer – this is my opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of the rest of the VQ project team.


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