December 26, 2013
BOCES planning new school in Cortland
Part of its self-styled regional plan to produce career- and college-ready students, Onondaga-Cortland-Madison BOCES is moving ahead with plans to bring a trio of new schools to the area by 2015, including one in Cortland County.
Two of the schools are planned for Onondaga County; one in Baldwinsville and the other in Liverpool.
The third will be somewhere in Cortland, said Jeff Craig, BOCES’ Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support Services, though its exact location remains to be seen.
Cortland’s school will offer ninth and tenth grades in its first year, adding a junior year its second year of operation and a senior year its third.
“We’re looking to find something we can renovate or carve a wing out of,” Craig said during a Thursday interview.
BOCES’ plan comes in response to increased emphasis on and concern about students’ ability to navigate careers that require what educators affectionately refer to as the four C’s; creativity, critical thinking, collaboration and communication.
“I think there’s a general sense that schools and education need to evolve faster maybe than we have been evolving,” Craig said. “We’re not always consistently preparing our students for their future. We’re still sort of a little slow to change.”
OCM BOCES will be working closely with New Tech Network, a California-based nonprofit that seeks to “transform schools into innovative learning environments.”
Since their founding in 1996, the New Tech Network has helped 120 schools nationwide make the transition to project-based curriculum.
The upcoming schools’ project-based curriculum would still be common-core aligned, Craig said, but would consist of real-world engagement and application on the part of students or, as they’re referred to in the Tech Schools Network, “learners.”
Craig gave an example of the type of project that “learners” might tackle in a class.
“These students had to be able to design and build some sort of a submersible that could go down to the bottom of a pond, grab something and then come back,” Craig said. “Often classes are combined. So in this case it was a geometry class, a technology class and a college private design class where students were earning college credit.”
Another project involved the design and marketing of a plan to turn an abandoned train station scheduled for demolition into something useful to the community.
Yet another, assigned by Albany’s Tech Valley School, asked “learners” to identify a problem facing their community and then draft and market legislation that would bring about a solution.
“This is 24/7, project-based learning,” Craig said.
OCM BOCES has already been in touch with a handful of local businesses with which they hope to form curriculum projects, Craig said, with Gutchess Lumber, Pall Trinity, Byrne Dairy and Cortland Works already showing interest.
The Liverpool school is the furthest along of the three, Craig said, with plans to open in September.
Baldwinsville’s and Cortland’s schools are scheduled to open in September 2015.
The student recruitment process would be done by lottery, Craig said, though student demographics would have to mirror the ethnic and economic demographics of the community in which they are located.
Craig plans to attend the Homer Board of Education meeting Jan.7 and give a presentation of the Tech Schools concept.
“Once you walk in and talk to these students, you’re sold,” said Craig, who has visited many New Tech Schools across the country.
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