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Provident Charter School Receives Community Support at Hearing

The North Hills School Board hosted a public hearing for the proposed charter school, which would cater to students with dyslexia.

A proposed charter school for dyslexic students appeared to receive the North Hills community's support Monday during a public hearing held on its application to operate within the boundaries. 

About 50 people attended, with only one speaking against the application by the Provident Charter School

If approved by the North Hills School District Board, the charter school would open in September 2013 and enroll 96 students from around the Pitsburgh region in grades three and four, according to the application. It plans to cap off at 336 students by the sixth year, and expand to teach grades two through eight. 

Its board is in negotiations to purchase a piece of vacant land at 173 Cemetery Lane, where they would like to build the new 70,000-square-foot school, said Curtis Kossman, an architect and president of the school's board of directors.

The school would be funded by billing the home school districts of the children who attend, based on the districts' expenditures per student anda formula set out in state law. The charter school's board estimates that within a 10-mile radius of the city of Pittsburgh, about 3,146 students from 14 public school districts and 63 private and parochial schools would qualify for the special education. 

For the North Hills School District, the cost would be about $20,000 per student, according to Tina Vojtko, the district's spokesman. 

About 60 North Hills students would qualify for the charter school, according to the charter school's market study and an estimate by the district.

Kossman, who attended Monday's hearing, said dyslexic children need special education outside the traditional public schools and that he knows this from experience — having been a dyslexic student himself and watching his two children, who are also dyslexic, work through the traditional system. 

"Every year we must perform the same routine,” Kossman said. “Every year we must teach their teachers. Every year we must convince them that our children are working hard and are putting forth the effort to deserve a passing grade.”

Maria Paluselli, a special education teacher who helped design the curriculum proposed for the new school, also spoke in favor of pulling dyslexic children out of the traditional school system.

“If it is not the right kind of tutoring, the right kind of reading instruction, the efforts are fruitless,” she said. “The parents and the child have put in hundreds of hours and lots of money to still be plateaued at the level they were a year or two ago.”

The new school proposes a 6:1 student-teacher ratio and individualized instruction for the dyslexic students, who suffer from a language skills disability that affects their reading, spelling, writing and pronounciation of words. 

The teaching method would be based on the Orton-Gillingham approach, which emphasizes the use of multiple senses and stories to help make language connections. 

The school will also integrate a martial arts program, conversational Spanish, the study of Latin and community service activities, according to the application. 

"The martial arts helps organize a dyslexic's brain," Kossman said in an interview before the meeting, adding that it also helps build self-esteem. 

As for the Spanish and Latin, "It will be a very specifically tailored foreign language program," he said. 

Board members now have 75 days to grant or deny the charter’s application.

David December 06, 2011 at 02:48 PM
The Provident Charter School does NOT propose a 6 to 1 student to teacher ratio as stated in this article. The application on file with North Hills School District clearly shows a 24 to 1 student to teacher ratio. Their proposal states that they intend to have 24 students in each classroom and to staff it with 1 teacher and 2 teacher's aides. They also hope to attract student teachers to assist in the classroom. While that means that there will be 3 to 4 adults in the classroom, only one is a teacher. If regular public schools reported their student-teacher ratios the way that this is presented, their averages would also be much. much smaller. As it is, few public schools in Allegheny County have such a high student to teacher ratio (24 to 1) as is being proposed by this charter school.
Paula A. Calabrese December 07, 2011 at 03:25 AM
While David’s literal interpretation is true, he misses the overall intention of Provident Charter School for Children with Dyslexia to hire highly qualified individuals to teach students. David does not consider the number of Pennsylvania certified teachers who are seeking employment, but can only find employment out of state. Many Pennsylvania certified teachers don’t want to relocate and welcome working with children in local schools in a role different from the lead teacher. Thus, the opportunity to hire fully certified teachers in positions such as teacher assistants and teacher aides is highly likely. While their role might be different, their preparation is the same.
Paula A. Calabrese December 07, 2011 at 03:25 AM
Provident Charter School for Children with Dyslexia plans to have a maximum of 24 students per section/classroom with 1 Pennsylvania certified lead teacher (elementary and/or special education certified and preferably Orton-Gillingham trained and certified) working with 1 student teacher and 2 teacher assistants. It is also extremely likely that the teacher assistants will be Pennsylvania certified teachers since in today’s market many certified elementary and special education teachers are interested and willing to accept positions as teacher assistants until other jobs become available. The intention is to engage 4 professionally certified, educated and/or trained adults in each classroom. Consequently, the ratio will be 1 professionally certified, educated and/or trained adult to 6 children in each of the classrooms. I believe that North Hills School District also seeks and prefers to hire teacher assistants and aides who are Pennsylvania certified teachers and currently has some in their employ at this time. It’s a good idea since it benefits children and keeps personnel costs a bit lower.
Paula A. Calabrese December 07, 2011 at 03:30 AM
To find out precise information about Provident Charter School for Children with Dyslexia please visit: www.providentcharterschool.wikispaces.com On this wiki you'll be able to view and download the PowerPoint slides that were presented to the North Hills School District Board, to view and download the entire Application that was submitted to the Board on November 11, 2011 and to learn more about the mission and vision of the school. Your perspectives on this unique educational opportunity for children with dyslexia and this opportunity for choice for parents are most welcome at providentcharterschool@gmail.com

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