Charter school reports progress

By Jim McCabe on October 17 at 7:19am

The District 117 board of education got an annual update from Jacksonville’s only charter school last night.

8 Points Charter School gave a presentation highlighting what the school is doing in what is now its third year of operation. It’s in its second year of teaching eighth grade. Principal Josh Slaughterback focused on several changes the school has made, including gender separation.

Slaughterback says the school started separating boys and girls last year on field trips, and “gender-based grouping” came to the classroom for two hours a day during advisory and community leadership.

“They have the opportunity to talk about relevant issues and also have real deep conversations about growing up at their age, things that they’re struggling with, and also they’re talking about some really deep social justice topics in the literacy component,” he says.

“That opens up an opportunity for them to talk more, to look deeper, to express themselves without having that concern or that scare that there’s a girl sitting down the row who’s judging me, or things of that nature.”

The full 8 Points report, which is available here, highlighted specific students that achieved progress academically and behaviorally as examples of the school’s mission to prepare young people for high school-level college prep classes.

“Those studies show you the academic gains that young people are making at 8 Points, the social and emotional gains, and ultimately the social and emotional gains lead to the academic gains, lead to the preparedness,” says Slaughterback.

“Sometimes young people have a brain that is ready to be molded and grown, but due to adolescence have some social and emotional barriers that they have to work through, and so those are part of our leadership and community programs.

“So at the time that they have the opportunity to grow through that social-emotional hurdle, that academic brain that’s always been there starts to come out and flourish. We see cases of that daily as well,” he continues.

8 Points hasn’t had an easy membership in District 117. The school board questioned why attendance dropped in the first year and spent several meetings last school year trying to reduce funding for the charter. Superintendent Steve Ptacek is in his first full year working with the school.

“At this point in time, understand that it’s a program the school board has decided to go with and has invested in, and if you’re going to invest in a program, you need to support it, so I was very glad to see- not just tonight but since I’ve been here- the communications amongst the board have been very positive about 8 Points, and being very supportive of our kids that attend there.”

The student numbers this year are similar to last. Slaughterback says 8 Points started with about 95 kids and expect to end with around 100. There’s still a cap of 110.

In action items, the board of education hired Ryan Field as the new District 117 transportation director at a salary of $64,000.

The school board decided to set aside a new policy about students taking home informational flyers. Ptacek says a procedure enacted two months ago that states only school organizations and official non-profit groups can put flyers in backpacks will stick.

“It was becoming cumbersome and it was starting to get in the way of our instruction and our own resources in our own building with the sheer volume of flyers that we were receiving,” Ptacek says.

The new policy would have limited flyers to an online “electronic backpack” and eliminated sending students home with paper flyers altogether.