Editor’s Note: The following is an opinion column submitted by Henry Kramer, former ICSD school board member and vice-chair of the Tompkins County Republican Party.

The column is a response to an Ithaca Voice story, “New Roots superintendent calls 51 percent graduation rate ‘utterly unacceptable,” published on Nov. 20. A response to Kramer’s column, “Opinion: New Roots wins the numbers game,” can be found here

As always, The Voice is willing to print alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To do so, contact me at jstein@ithacavoice.com

— Jeff Stein

Why I shop downtown — Carmen

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Written by Henry Kramer:

Ithaca, N.Y. — Picture the distress of a student and the student’s parents when after a few years at New Roots Charter School they find that graduation is not in their future.  After all those promises, inducing them to abandon their successful home district public school, New Roots has failed them in providing a vital result, a good education ending in a diploma. It happens to so many New Roots students.

“New Roots Charter School reported a 51% four-year graduation rate for the 2010 cohort in the 2013-2014 Accountability Plan Progress Report”, starts the Lansing Star news article of November 21, 2014.  Instead the headline should read, “New Roots falls far short of local public schools in delivering results.”

Fact: At the time she founded New Roots Charter School, Tina Nilsen-Hodges pledged a 100% graduation rate. The charter that governs New Roots has three requirements regarding graduation: 1) a minimum of 75% graduating within four years, 2) a minimum of 95% within in five years, 3) achieving a graduation rate that meets or exceeds its local high school (Ithaca City School District).

New Roots has met exactly none of these requirements in the five years it has been in operation.  By its own admission, it will continue to underperform all high schools in this area including Ithaca and Lansing High School (each graduating 92%) and will not come close to meeting the 95% graduation rate for its five year students.

Furthermore, over half of the students who do somehow manage to graduate despite attending New Roots do so only with Regents credits they earned while enrolled in their home districts.  New Roots may be entitled to its own opinions, but not to its own facts.  And, it is supposed to measure up to its own charter.

New Roots was not chartered as a “second chance” high school.  Its chartered mission is to provide an education for all of its students that meets or exceeds the education offered by schools in this area.  Clearly it fails to do so.

Charter schools, which divert resources from public schools and duplicate facilities were envisioned as a way to help parents avoid failing schools.  Which school is failing here?  Obviously New Roots is the failing school.  So, why are we supporting this failing school at the cost of successful ones?

The public tax payers of all feeder districts to New Roots have nothing but empty promises to show for the over $14 million dollars already invested in this school. It is underperforming other public schools across New York State that are being closed due to low graduation rates.  It has no business continuing to do business in Ithaca.

How many more young people’s lives will New Roots unfulfilled promises uproot?  The Charter School Institute should stop protecting this failing charter school which leaves so many of its students without diplomas and revoke the charter before more irrevocable damage is done to young people.

Henry S. Kramer
Town of Dryden
(Kramer was elected a Board of Education member, Ithaca City School District, 2001-2004)


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Jeff Stein

Jeff Stein is the founder and former editor of the Ithaca Voice.