This year’s opening of South Shore Charter School in central Suffolk County brings to seven the number of independent charter campuses in Nassau and Suffolk. Growth of the region’s charter movement has produced schooling choices welcomed by many parents. The school originally was authorized to operate under a decision reached last year by trustees of the State University of New York. SUNY trustees and the state’s Board of Regents are the two New York authorities with power to approve charter schools.
“South Shore Charter School was founded out of a need that existed in this region,” Mattison said at school last week. “What we realize is that parents want a choice. They want assurance that the learning gap will be closed.” Dermoth Mattison, founder and executive director, formerly served six years as a principal at Academy Charter School in Hempstead, which ranks among the highest-scoring charter campuses in the state.
Extended sessions in reading, math
Still, there is an emphasis on academics, with extended sessions in reading and math, together with regular periods of physical education, art, music and science.
Last Monday, two kindergarten teachers, Kelsey Alpert and Gina Martinez, were passing along tips to their students, all dressed in uniforms accented in plaid, on how to select a reading book. Martinez, who formerly taught preschool classes, said she was looking forward to this year’s new experience. “For me, it’s going to be very rewarding,” she said. “I’m looking forward to shaping those little minds and watching them grow.“
One special feature of South Shore’s curriculum is pre-engineering training offered through a national program called “Project Lead the Way.” Portions of the program are available even to the youngest students — for example, in the form of wooden balls rolled down a miniature ramp as children learn basic principles of physics. Like other schools, South Shore will administer state testing assessment in English, math and other subjects as students move into higher grade levels. School administrators here said they rely on personal observation as well as test results to make sure students stay on track academically.
Principal Arsenio Heslop was in a first-grade classroom last week, checking on 6-year-olds’ progress and providing what he described as “in-the-moment feedback” to teachers. “We’re not waiting for the assessments to come back,” Heslop said.
A parent, Kymberly May, said she already noticed an increase in her 6-year-old daughter’s independent reading after the first week of classes. May, a senior tech nursing attendant who lives in the Sachem district, added that her daughter’s attitude convinced her that the first-grader should remain enrolled at South Shore when the school relocates to Central Islip. “She’s excited, she’s happy,” the mother said.
Generally, any families living within districts where charter schools are located are given priority in enrollment of their children. Admission is usually by lottery when applications exceed available classroom slots.