Four years after the first charter school in Ithaca opened its doors, the battle over the alternative institution continues. As YNN's Tamara Lindstrom reports, New Roots is looking to renew its charter.
ITHACA, N.Y. -- Designed as an alternative to mainstream public school education, New Roots offers hands-on community based learning.
"As we enter our fifth year, we feel like we're in a really great place,"said Tina Nilsen-Hodges, New Roots Principal and Superintendent. "Having laid the foundation for the program that we described in the original charter and meeting the quality benchmarks that our authorizer has established for charter schools."
However, that charter will soon be up.
On Wednesday, the Ithaca City School District hosted a public hearing where community members could speak about whether the school's charter should be renewed. Dozens of students, parents and teachers voiced support for the institution.
Not everyone considers the charter a success.
"It has a serious attendance problem, a declining enrollment problem, poor teacher retention and it's right now fiscally in the red. So it is not serving the students that they're supposed to serve," said Corinne Frantz, who opposed the formation of the school.
Frantz says the school has provided inaccurate reports of student success, but Nilsen-Hodges denies that allegation. However, the principal says enrollment numbers are lower than planned.
"We're still not quite up to the level we ultimately hope to be, which is 200 students," Nilsen-Hodges said. "Last year we were closer. We had about 180. This year we have 153. So we've still got places for more students and we're still drawing students from up to 20 districts in our region."
The majority of the speakers at the hearing supported the charter school. Many said what the statistics don't show is a culture of inclusion that keeps students from slipping through the cracks.
"I'm just so grateful to see the ways that the school has impacted the lives of students, and how many families say that the school has had a transformative impact on their students' lives, and they've discovered potential in themselves, they've done things that they otherwise wouldn't have done," Nilsen-Hodges said.
Whether the school has seen enough success to renew its charter is now up to the SUNY Charter Schools Institute to decide.
The comments from the public hearing will be submitted to the Charter Schools Institute as part of New Roots' charter renewal application. A decision is expected by early 2014.