Plans to open a new charter school in Utica are moving forward. Despite some protest, the Utica Academy of Science had its application granted and they plan to open in the fall. Our Andrew Sorensen takes a look at their parent school in Syracuse and tells us what they hope to accomplish with their new school.
SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- You could say Syracuse Academy of Science Charter School Director Tolga Hayali is firm.
"We believe in no excuses," he said.
But he's got a firm mandate: Get over 90 percent of their inner-city students to graduate with an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math, also known as STEM.
"They wanted to create this school, a little model that will focus on those areas," he explained.
It's a model they hope to copy when they open the Utica Academy of Science this fall.
SASCS Dean of Academics Linda Spencer said, "Every beginning is rocky and it gets better and better and better every year. It has here."
But what should parents expect as it gets better? First off: College prep.
"The first question we ask to anybody who enters to this school, who wants to come or bring their kids in is, 'Where are you going to go to college?'" Hayali said.
Spencer said you'll have the same regulations as a public school, "But we can approach it differently, our teachers can be creative, they can think outside the box and they do."
Teachers here say the individualized attention is also a big draw.
"Some of my 11th grade kids I have now, I had them in seventh grade. And so I get to see them progress all the way up," said math teacher Jeff Clark.
Then there's what they're learning. They're so heavy on the STEM angle, their sports mascot is even an atom, but you can expect a lot more than sports to make the extracurricular list.
"You have to come on Saturdays, you have to work on the spring break, winter break, you have to work longer days," Hayali said.
They also have kids pursuing other fields, but Hayali said in this modern world, the extra work is the only thing that will cut it.
"If you have a magic pill, just let me know, I'd like to use it, but there is (none), there's only hard work and you have to go the extra mile," he said.
They're still looking for a building for the Utica School, but they are taking applications for grades six through nine in their bold venture.
The charter school has faced criticism from the Utica City School District for drawing away state funding, but the school notes they only use about two-thirds the public school dollar amount per pupil.