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Charter school, Chaney to vie for city STEAM

Published: Mon, August 1, 2011 @ 12:06 a.m.


The former Immaculate Conception School on Youngstown’s East Side will be the home this fall of a new charter school focusing on science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

By Denise Dick



The city school district’s new Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and visual and performing arts school has competition from a new charter school.

Mosaica Education Inc. will open the STEAM — Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math — Academy of Youngstown on Aug. 8 at 810 Oak St., the former Immaculate Conception School, the company said.

Mosaica’s company headquarters are in Atlanta and New York. STEAM Academy will be the second Mosaica school in the city.

The company also operates Youngstown Academy of Excellence on Rigby Street.

Though the new charter school will house students in kindergarten through eighth grade, it opens the same year that the former Chaney High School opens as a STEM and visual and performing arts school. That city school will accommodate students in sixth through 12th grades.

“It’s my understanding that they’ve been planning it for a couple of years, but I didn’t know that” when the city schools planned its Chaney change, said Connie Hathorn, Youngstown schools superintendent.

“It is kind of strange that they waited until we opened one.”

But he says he’s not concerned.

“Ours is going to be the flagship,” Hathorn said. “We have great students, and there’s great interest in the city for a school like this, based on the number who applied.”

About 330 students, who auditioned and interviewed for the slots, are to attend the new Chaney this year.

Melvin Brown, regional vice president for Mosaica’s Ohio schools, said through a spokeswoman that the company has been planning the school for about seven months and called it coincidence that the Mosaica school and the city school are opening at the same time.

The company is also opening STEAM schools this month in Warren and in Winston-Salem, N.C.

Lock P. Beachum Sr., city school board president, said parents will have to compare the programs to determine which better suits their children and their needs.

“I think we just have to prove that we have the best program, and parents should check both out and see who has the best program and who best meets the needs of their children for now and the future,” he said.

Another division of Mosaica, Mosaica Turnaround Partners, is one of the consultants contracted to help implement the Youngstown district’s academic recovery plan, aimed at getting the district out of academic emergency.

Mosaica’s contract was recommended by the Ohio Department of Education and approved by both the academic commission and city school board, but the school district is footing the bill. The contract is capped at $405,000.

“That is a concern,” Beachum said. “That’s something that we will need to take up with the academic commission: Why are we paying someone to be in competition with us? And we will find out.”

Debra Mettee, commission chairwoman, said she’s not concerned.

“They have other community schools around the area, and ODE was the one that selected them, and they were very comfortable with them,” she said.

Also, the work Mosaica Turnaround Partners was doing with the academic plan is completed except for final reports. That one-year contract was for the company to coach and mentor city school principals.

Brown, through the spokeswoman, said there is no conflict of interest. Mosaica Education Inc. and Mosaica Turnaround Partners are separate entities and don’t interact, he said.

“Mosaica Education school is not affiliated with the school board in any way, and the school board is the one that hired Turnaround Partners,” said the spokeswoman, Marilyn Pearlman.

Hathorn said the awarding of the consultant contracts occurred prior to his coming to the district.

“They were chosen through a bidding process through the state department,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure if they would have known, they wouldn’t have selected them. But I can’t worry about it. I don’t need any hiccups before school starts at any of my buildings, especially this one. We have quality teachers. Parents are interested and we have the support of the community, the board and the state. We’re going to be OK.”

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