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Governors Island Could Get Newark-Based Charter School

By Julie Shapiro | February 16, 2012 8:30am
A rendering of the future designs for Governors Island, now under construction.
A rendering of the future designs for Governors Island, now under construction.
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West 8

GOVERNORS ISLAND — A charter school from Newark wants to open a new campus on Governors Island.

The Great Oaks Charter School, which launched in Newark last fall, hopes to open a middle and high school on Governors Island starting in the fall of 2013, lead applicant Ben Carson told DNAinfo Wednesday.

"It's a great place to have a school," Carson said of Governors Island. "It's almost like a college campus. It's a transformative place for kids."

The proposal is still in the preliminary stages, as the school still has to receive its charter from New York State and then would have to apply for space on Governors Island through a competitive public bidding process, according to Carson and the Trust for Governors Island.

If all the necessary approvals come through, Great Oaks Charter School would start with 66 sixth-graders and would ultimately grow to 462 students from sixth through 12th grade, Carson said.

The school's educational philosophy is based on the high-achieving MATCH School in Boston and focuses on preparing children to succeed in college. All students at Great Oaks Charter School receive two hours of individual or small-group tutoring every day.

"We're really focused on not just getting kids into college but also out of college," Carson said.

To give students the focused attention they need, Great Oaks Charter School will hire dozens of tutoring fellows, recent college graduates who receive housing and stipends for a year of service, Carson said.

The New York outpost of Great Oaks Charter School would be part of District 2, which stretches from Lower Manhattan to the Upper East Side. Students would enter in sixth grade and stay through high school, Carson said.

Governors Island already has one public school: The New York Harbor School, a maritime-focused high school that opened in 2010.

Carson presented his plans to Community Board 1's Youth and Education Committee Tuesday night in the hopes of receiving a letter of support, but the committee decided not to write one.

The Youth Committee objected to the recent proliferation of charter schools in New York City, based on concerns about resources being taken away from public school students. They do not want to support another new charter at this time, said Paul Hovitz, co-chairman of the committee.

Carson said he looked forward to continuing to work with the community.

Proposed trustees for New York's Great Oaks Charter School include Alia Smith, a Columbia Business School student who previously worked at MATCH; Joseph McDonald, professor at New York University's Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development; and Michael Duffy, who is chairman of the board of Newark's Great Oaks Charter School and previously led the Department of Education's Charter Schools Office.