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Public forum held on charter school proposals

By LEXIE O'CONNOR

UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Charter schools could soon come to Utica. A public forum was held on two proposals in a special Utica School Board meeting Tuesday.

The proposals are for a "Mohawk Valley Community Charter School," what would be a Kindergarten through 5th grade school at Utica's Holy Trinity Catholic Church's former Parochial School. Each grade would have up to 75 students.

The second proposal is for a "Utica Academy of Science Charter School" which is based off of a similar school in Syracuse.

Applicants said with more freedoms in their the curriculum, charter schools could bring a different type of schooling to Utica and help more children succeed.

"Charter schools are given the freedom to use innovative teaching methods and are freed up from many of the restrictions that public schools find them under right now, in exchange for the flexibility theres far greater accountability," said Ann Maher of the Mohawk Valley Community Charter School Proposal.

Maher said the charter schools would still have to meet all state and feral guidelines. If granted a charter, in their five year term, the schools would have to prove that they meet a high level of performance or else be closed.

While both would offer a tuition-free, school of choice option for students, and have proven successful in other communities, not everyone is for them.

"I've been around a long time and all I know is the names change, but there's only so much you can do, things pretty much stay the same, they change the wordings but innovative is what?" said President of Utica Teachers Association Larry Custodero.

While the charter school proposals emphasize smaller class sizes and innovative teaching ideas and curriculum flexibility, many teachers came to Tuesday's meeting questioning whether they will help more students succeed and fear they will devastate the Utica School District.

"We would loose teachers, we would lose staff and the kids that are in APs right now, they're doing well anyway," said Custodero. "I'm not saying that's what would happen but its a probability."

As both a public school and a non profit organization, the charter schools would be funded by the state, grants, and private benefactors. Admission would be open to everyone based on applications and then a lottery system.

The decision of if either or both charter schools will come to Utica is now up to the state. The Utica School Board will send a report on Tuesday's Public Forum to the State Department of Education to go with the two charter proposals, and the schools should have an answer by December.

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