Amistad Academy Approved to Open in the Fall: New Haven Charter School Ranked #1 in the State

Amistad Academy today received approval by the State Board of Education to open as a charter middle school in New Haven starting in the fall of 1999. The Academy was ranked number one on the priority list submitted by the State Education Commissioner to the Board of Education at today's meeting in Hartford. The New Haven school's top ranking was "based on the strength and quality" of its application, explained the Commissioner in his submission to the Board.

Amistad Academy today received approval by the State Board of Education to open as a charter middle school in New Haven starting in the fall of 1999. The Academy was ranked number one on the priority list submitted by the State Education Commissioner to the Board of Education at today’s meeting in Hartford. The New Haven school’s top ranking was “based on the strength and quality” of its application, explained the Commissioner in his submission to the Board.

Amistad Academy will open in the fall of 1999 with 84 fifth and sixth grade students, and will eventually serve 250 fifth through eighth grade students selected by lottery from throughout the city of New Haven.

“Amistad Academy promises to provide a truly excellent education to its students,” said Dacia Toll, a teacher and Rhodes Scholar who is a coordinator of the project. “We have built a middle school model that will help students master a rigorous academic program and provide them with the confidence and support necessary to avert the potential pitfalls of adolescence.”

Stefan Pryor, a former top advisor to New Haven’s mayor who has helped to plan the Academy, said, “In building the Amistad Academy model, we have visited a number of high-performing urban schools throughout the country. The Academy brings together the best practices of these successful schools – and it does so within a design that is taylored to New Haven’s unique strengths and needs.”

Amistad Academy was developed over a two-year planning period by a diverse group of more than 40 parents, teachers, and key business, banking, foundation, university, and government leaders. The charter school’s institutional partners include Yale Law School, the Southern Connecticut State University School of Education, the Yale Child Study Center, New Haven Savings Bank, the New Haven County Bar Association, and the Greater New Haven Chamber of Commerce.

The Academy will have a challenging academic core program focused on reading, writing, mathematics, and public speaking skills. It will also have an extended school day and school year, with an additional 720 hours of instruction each year. Other aspects of the school include a continuous student evaluation program, individualized instructional plans for each student, a “gateway” system of performance-based student advancement, hands-on and project-based learning, and opportunities for teachers to grow through peer coaching and working partnerships with local universities. There will be close collaboration among parents, students, and the school in the monitoring of students’ progress and the sharing of information.

A unique feature of Amistad Academy is that the school will have its own microsociety, with a student-run General Assembly, bank, micro-businesses, courts, and newspaper. Every member of the school community will be expected to adhere to the student-drafted code of respectful conduct; the school will have a “high expectations, no excuses” discipline policy.

Amistad Academy will also “use the city as its classroom,” taking advantage of the rich human and institutional resources available in New Haven, including area businesses, libraries, courts, museums, and universities.

Parents interested in enrolling their children in Amistad Academy, and those interested in further information on the new charter school, should contact the Amistad Academy office at (203) 764-6350. The deadline for applications is May 3, 1999.

CONTACTS:

Dacia Toll, project coordinator, (203) 562-3186

Stefan Pryor, project coordinator, (203) 397-7545

Irene Fiss, former principal of Connecticut public and private schools and career educator, (301) 483-9479 (vacation phone number)

Paul McCraven, Vice President, New Haven Savings Bank, (203) 784-5001

Jeff Klaus, Vice President, Fleet Bank, (203) 821-7480

Lezley TwoBears, public school parent and advocate for homeless people, (203) 387-6060

Anthony Kronman, Dean, Yale Law School, (203) 432-1660

Rod Lane, Dean, Southern Connecticut State University School of Education, (203) 392-5901

Barbara Winters, New Haven public school teacher and former foundation executive, (203) 865-6463

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