Northwestern Press

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Charter school presents case to NWL school board...

Thursday, August 16, 2012 by KENNETH BLEILER Special to The Press in Local News

The Northwestern Lehigh School Board recently held a public hearing to hear a proposal for a new charter school.

Circle of Seasons was originally proposed for a site on Cedar Crest Boulevard in the Parkland School District.

The proposal was denied by that board. Since that time, another tentative site was put forward, possibly the old Penn State complex in Fogelsville.

Solicitor Kristine Roddick, outlined the hearing format for all those present.

The applicant would give a 15-minute presentation which would be followed by a question-and-answer session with school board members.

After the board was finished its questions, the meeting would be opened to the audience.

Presenting their case to the board were founder Phil Arnold, business manager Tom Taylor and Attorney Patricia Hennessy.

Taylor said the school will be based on the Waldorf Method, founded by Dr. Rudolf Steiner of Austria.

Steiner envisioned a co-educational school run with a minimum of interference from government.

The teachers who work with the children would take the lead role in running the school.

The proposal, in text form, was given to the board prior to the meeting.

Arnold summarized the proposal and gave an overview of how Circle of Seasons would operate and what it had to offer students.

He described Waldorf as "a unique experience to learn of the world and about the world."

At the conclusion of his presentation, school board members voiced their opinions and offered suggestions.

Some members noted certain deficiencies in the plan.

Superintendent Dr. Mary Ann Wright questioned how Circle of Seasons would be able to meet state mandated proficiency standards.

Arnold seemed hesitant in his answer but assured the board the school would meet the standards.

The Adequate Yearly Progress standards tests are administered to students starting with third grade.

Arnold said any deficiencies in the proposal would be addressed and the plan re-submitted.

He said the school would offer kindergarten through second grade in the first year of operation.

Eventually, grades will be K through 8.

He expects to be ready for the 2013 school year. All programs would be full day.

Other state mandated curriculum standards were discussed.

Board member Ronald Morrison mentioned the term "anthroposophy," which describesSteiner's teaching philosophy of developing a curriculum based on creativity and free thinking.

School Director Joseph Reiter questioned the track record of Waldorf schools.

Arnold replied many of its students have gone on to college ands have had uccessful careers.

If the application is denied, Circle of Seasons can amend its proposal to reflect the board's comments and resubmit at a later date.

If granted, the school district must pay a tuition to the charter school for each student.