Editor’s Note: The following is a letter to the editor written by New Roots Charter School teacher Rebecca Cutter.
As always, we are eager to reprint alternative or dissenting viewpoints. To do so, contact msmith@ithacavoice.com.

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As a proud employee of New Roots Charter School I feel moved to respond to the article published by The Ithaca Voice on February 13th. Recently New Roots made an official request to the Charter School Institute to lower our enrollment from 200 to 160 students.

This number more closely reflects where our enrollment is currently and where we want it to be. This past Tuesday, we decided not to attend a public hearing regarding the charter modification. We were under no legal obligation to attend.
I’m done with fighting off criticism from a small handful of extremely vocal Ithaca City School District Board Members and three angry, hateful, shortsighted community members. We simply have more positive things to pour our energy into.

Here’s a short list: our annual Alumni College Life Panel, our Winter Open House, our student council elections, our after school cademic support program, our track team which took second place at an invitational at Cornell last week, our delegation that attended the State of the State of Climate Change March and Rally in Albany, our upcoming public event called, The Power of Project-Based Learning, our seniors who are working so hard to get their college applications in on time, our Caregiver Action Committee that is working to bring Civic Ensemble to our school to do some theatre of the oppressed, yes, Theatre of the Oppressed – stop Oppressing us Ithaca City School District and let us do our job!

High school is not one size fits all. Our students are incredible individuals who had the insight or a series of unfortunate experiences in their district schools to know that they needed a smaller, more inclusive, creative school community with more hands-on, project-based learning.

We are a mission driven school with a focus on sustainability education and social justice. We are a school of choice. Every one of our students chose to come to New Roots over their district school. We love our students and we will fight to keep our school open.

Want to know why our test scores and graduation rates were low? New Roots is in its 7th year. When a regional charter school opens its doors and for the first time students from area districts have an alternative for public education you tend to get a flood of students who have been failed by their district schools. Can you imagine what it takes to help an incoming junior prepare for graduation when they are coming in with gaps in their education, learning needs that were never met and a not so positive opinion of education as a whole? But we do it every day!

Our floodwaters are subsiding and our test scores and graduation rates are rising. We are seeing more and more families enrolling their students because they believe that what we offer is what their student needs to thrive socially and to succeed academically. Our teachers and staff get paid less than they would in a district school but the reward is in the relationships we develop with students and their families and our community as we forge a new path that redefines what public education can offer our youth.

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Michael Smith

Michael Smith reports on politics and local news for the Ithaca Voice. He can be reached via email at msmith@ithacavoice.com, by cell at (607) 229-0885, or via Google Voice at (518) 650-3639.