Friday, May 25, 2012

Da Vinci Founding members: Our outreach to the community

To the editor:

As Founding Team Members of the proposed DaVinci Charter School of Hoboken (a free public school), we are writing to explain our mission and program, and to clarify some points raised by Dr. Toback's recent letter to the State Department of Education.

We believe that:

-       DaVinci will provide a valuable, effective, and desired additional public school choice for the children of Hoboken;
-       Families should be able to choose the educational approach and learning environment that they believe best fits their individual child;
-       Diversity of income and ethnicity in schools is both morally right and academically and socially best for all students; and
-       Project-based, science, technology, engineering, and math (S.T.E.M.) focused education is a great way for children to learn, be motivated, and prepare for 21st century jobs.

DaVinci’s mission is to develop students who love learning and thirst for knowledge; can effectively solve problems, analyze information, and think critically; and have the skills, knowledge, and habits to achieve their goals, both individually and as part of a community.  We aim to create a school that nurtures every child and adapts instruction to their individual learning needs, in a climate of academic rigor and excitement about learning.

We are dedicated to reaching and serving ALL families in Hoboken.  Our enrollment process will be through random lottery, as required by law, and we strive to make our applicant pool as diverse as possible.  We are organizing a series of outreach meetings throughout the city – anyone who is interested in working with us to set up a meeting is welcome to contact us at the email address below.

DaVinci offers a unique educational approach. “There is no doubt that S.T.E.M. programs are appealing for a variety of reasons,” as Superintendent Toback wrote in his letter.  One of those reasons is the national need to educate our students with S.T.E.M. concepts to remain competitive in the global marketplace.  The foundation of success in S.T.E.M. subjects begins at the elementary level, and DaVinci would be the only school option in Hoboken with a focus on (and additional class time for) S.T.E.M., supported by partnerships with Stevens Institute of Technology and the New York Hall of Science.

DaVinci's Project Based Learning approach engages and motivates students and helps them develop critical thinking and problem-solving skills, while also mastering basic skills and important content.  This model has been demonstrated to work particularly well with at-risk students, including both at-risk and special needs students.  Our S.T.E.M. and project-based components will be offered together with strong literacy, social studies, and arts instruction.

Families in Hoboken strongly desire more school choices.  Different children are motivated and learn best in different ways – and their parents are the best equipped to choose the learning environment that fits their child.  There is such a high demand for the existing charter schools in Hoboken that they are not a choice for most families – almost 90% of non-sibling applications for kindergarten this year were rejected in the lottery, and each charter school has hundreds of children on its waiting list.  Most of the private schools in Hoboken cost well over $14,000 a year, and most are religiously-affiliated.  These are also not true choices for most families.

We also would like to clear up a misunderstanding of law in the letter, which cites a law which caps charter school enrollment at a certain number or percentage of district enrollment.  This law states that it expired twelve years ago.

Finally, we would like to clarify some of the funding issues around charter schools like DaVinci.  Charter schools receive (and spend) much less per pupil than district schools.  The Hoboken district spends roughly $22,639 per pupil (according to the district’s projected 2012-13 budget.)  If DaVinci opens, the district would need to write a check for about $10,800 per pupil (estimate provided by the State DOE) – but the district would still receive state aid for the children who attend charter schools, as well as keeping a portion of locally raised funds – all without bearing the costs of educating the students.  Recognizing that part of that amount is made up of costs that don't easily change with the movement of a few children, the district would still retain a sizable amount for students who are not actually being educated in their schools.

More information on DaVinci’s curriculum, budget, our contact information, our application, and every other aspect of our school design can be found on our website:  davincicharter.wordpress.com 

The Founding Team Members and supporters believe that DaVinci can provide Hoboken families an excellent, cost-effective, public school of choice.  We welcome your questions and an ongoing dialogue.  We can be reached at davincicharterschool@gmail.com.

Yours truly,

David Cappelleri
Mohsen Hossein
Eric O’Connor
Brian Philipson
Rachel Potts
Jamie Rice
Stacy Rosenblum
Laura Siegel