Oswego 308 Considers STEM School with Aurora University

The school would be open to third-eighth grade students in four local school districts.

Credit: STEM documents
Credit: STEM documents

How would you feel about your child attending a STEM school, which specializes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics?

Oswego 308 is considering joining with three other local school districts – Indian Prairie 204, West Aurora 129 and East Aurora 131 – and Aurora University to form a partnership for the John C. Dunham STEM School, which would be housed at Aurora University.

Oswego 308 Superintendent Dr. Matthew Wendt said talks regarding the STEM school have been happening since around 2007, and it has come to fruition. The school would plan to open for fall of 2014.

Some quick facts about the STEM school partnership:

  • 50 students from each school district would be admitted
  • Those students would be selected by their school districts using a rubric
  • Students admitted will be between grades third-eighth
  • Following “graduation,” students would return to their home-district high schools
  • The school will be funded by the school districts, Aurora University
  • The STEM school would also partner with local businesses and companies, including Caterpillar, Exelon, Fermilab, Argonne National Laboratory and many more STEM based groups
  • The cost of educating students will reportedly be less at the STEM school and there are no additional fees for families for attending

Oswego 308 board members raised some concerns during the presentation by Dr. Sherry Eagle, executive director of the Institute for Collaboration at Aurora University.

“99 percent of what you’re proposing is wonderful,” said board member Greg O’Neil. “But we have over 17,000 kids who need those opportunites. We’re talking about 50.”

Eagle said the program in “one fell swoop” won’t address the needs of over 17,000 students, but “you have to start somewhere.”

He commented that the school sounded similar to a charter school, which the board had denied last year.

Senator Linda Holmes, who helped push the STEM school project though, said this would not be at all like a charter school. “It will not take away the dollars that would otherwise be going to the schools.”

Board member Brent Lightfoot raised concerns on how the schools would be evaluated, as the AYP would be directed back to the home districts.

There were also concerns raised about the curriculum, what students were to do when they went back to their high schools and the feeling of the district of being “shortchanged” with regards to GSA funding.

The board will be discussing the STEM school in more detail on their Jan. 27 board meeting. They will be expected to vote on whether to proceed with being a part of the school by the end of February at the latest.

More information on the STEM school can be found here.

ayar January 20, 2014 at 11:22 AM
Wait a minute. You're telling me that will all the resources 308 has available to it, Science Teachers, IT staff, Teachers, and Materiel, that WE can't come up with our OWN STEM program ? REALLY ? how much do we pour into the IT Department each year ? what happens to the old and discarded gear that can be learned from ? guys like Denny Barfus and Paul Roberts can't work the program ? REALLY? look, nothing against the Aurora effort, but (1) will they run it right [check Aurora's history of these sorts of programs] and (2) only 50 kids are benefitting from this. 50 of our how many potential Science, Technology, Engineering and Math students in the District. The Creme de la creme. Guys. we can do better. 308 can do it.
Truth Detector January 23, 2014 at 09:16 AM
Ayar - Think bigger picture for a moment and don't be so narrow focused. This is a major opportunity to work with other school districts. Some who are better than 308 and some worse. Some who have already developed curriculum towards STEM and some who haven't. This is only sacrificing 2 teachers towards the STEM partnership school so there is very little resources for a school district that has over 1000 teachers. Secondly, this is not the crème de la crème that only get to attend this school. Anyone can apply as long as they meet minimal standards. Third, those teachers only serve (I believe) 2 years at the STEM school then come back to the district to benefit all the kids of the district. Lastly, it would be virtually impossible to implement a full blown STEM program given all the commitments the school district has with their money. There isn't much left over. If you give to something you have to take away from something else. Remember, the Dunham Foundation and other corporations along with Aurora University have donated almost $15M towards this unique opportunity. If you think 308 has even a 1/4 of that sitting around to create their own STEM program you're sadly mistaken!! This IS a golden opportunity for all the kids and educators of 308 to benefit...long term.
ayar January 24, 2014 at 02:07 PM
Truth Detector, I don't think I'm being "narrow focused" at all on this, and I am thinking bigger picture. I'm curious on which standards you are defining a full STEM program, because there are many success stories in our state that are on a shoestring budget. Let's try thinking outside the box for a minute. Let's go through a few possibilities for a second, bearing in mind every STEM program out doesn't cover ALL of Science, Technology,Engineering and Math. We have a plot of land we originally were going to turn into a 3rd high school - with some corporate benefactors, can we buy a wind turbine and use it to educate the kids how they work and maintain it ? can we get a few "hybrid" cars in our auto shops [maybe Guy at OEHS might be interested] to give them a chance to develop ? 3d printers, robotics, all that and more.....without even leaving the district. Just a little extra work out of our A.T. teachers. Again, don't get me wrong, it's a nice sweet deal that Aurora is doing, but it is "limited" on only allowing 50 kids to enjoy it. We can be more. How do we get back some of our initial investment ? if the program is offered at night to interested adults [working on hybrid cars for example, and charging a moderate fee] we can get the initial investment back and use the rest to invest further in STEM programs.
Truth Detector January 27, 2014 at 08:27 AM
If 308 can do all of that for under $100K with no corporate sponsorship than go for it. Otherwise this is the better deal not only for those 50 kids but for all the kids, the teachers and lessons in curriculum. My guess is that if 308 pulls out of this STEM Partnership School they will be begging to get back into it in 2-3 years. Guess what? The other districts won't let them. Go it alone 308, we'll see who's school districts make bigger gains in STEM and test scores. Problem is this board tries to be fiscally responsible but loses sight on the bigger picture and long term benefits and gains and ends up ultimately spending more money.


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