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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.

John Weber January 15, 2014 at 11:50 AM
I'd like to see the district fund programs already in place within the district; such as the current AP classes and increasing opportunities for the Spanish language immersion program that currently only takes like 5 English speaking kids / year who win a lottery!
Truth Detector January 15, 2014 at 04:46 PM
I really question these board members! This is not a charter school this is a partnership school. Big difference! This is not taking away your public education money or your students. So get that straight! I watched the presentation and the cost per student you would pay for 50 students is minimal. School board members I hope you really clue in! There is support from local, state and national legislators. There is educational and financial support from Aurora University and the Dunham Foundation in addition to other corporations. This could transform education nationwide and you have a ground floor opportunity, and you are questioning a few hundred dollars extra per 50 kids? You do realize that the curriculum and structure of this school will benefit all students of Oswego, don't you? Think long term board members and don't be so short sighted! You're questioning few hundred dollars per student it would cost you extra for 50 kids in operating expenses for a potential benefit for your whole community? I fail to see where the struggle is? The 2 teachers you have teach at this STEM partnership school would also come back to your district and make it a better district! I just don't get your thinking! O'Neil - This IS bigger than 50 students! Just look at the previous comments from a parent. Parents from Oswego are looking for better opportunities and better classes. This STEM partnership school is one of those opportunities that helps you get there with the knowledge that get brought back from being involved with this school and the teachers that teach at the school. There are so many possibilities and ways in which this school could help Oswego kids! Lightfoot - From what I've heard and read those are still Oswego's kids. Testing and AYP reports back to your local district for those kids and reports back to their home school, no? So if you're worried about testing and AYP my guess is these kids are going to be doing better in the STEM partnership school. So your testing scores and AYP will increase! GSA funding - These are still Oswego students just because they are going to the STEM partnership school it shouldn't change your GSA state education funding. For a moment, let's say it is changing your education funding. The state pays roughly $6300 per student x 50 students. That's $31,500. Oswego's budget is $150 million and you're worried about $31,500 to help hundreds or thousands of your students? Great opportunity to partner with West Aurora, East Aurora and Indian Prairie School Districts. Great opportunity to partner with Aurora University, the Dunham Foundation and many other corporations to benefit ALL of our students. Overall Golden Opportunity!!! If Oswego had tens of millions of dollars (that has been donated) laying around to start your own program like this STEM partnership school then I guess Oswego should go for it themselves. Ignoring the money for a second. This STEM partnership school has local, state and national legislators, a university and corporations that have donated their support. Oh yeah, and money. If you have that money Oswego board members, do it on your own. You either do it now or you may not get another chance. You think West Aurora, East Aurora or Indian Prairie are going to give up their number of students and this opportunity to let another school get involved in 5 years down the road? Heck No!!
Mike Francis January 15, 2014 at 06:02 PM
Charter schools don't take the money away from who is paying it- and that is the taxpayers. So whether you are talking about a charter school or a 'partnership' school, the finances are the same. A public education was never intended to single people out for special treatment at higher costs to the taxpayers. Send you kid to college early or pay for their own education if you want something available for them that isn't available for everyone else. That's the problem with public education- those who want others to pay for their kids' educations don't want them to be treated as a 'group'. We already have half the country living off the workers, and this preferential treatment is just as likely to suck more money from the workers in our society.
John Weber January 15, 2014 at 07:40 PM
More on my comment above. I'm not necessarily against this STEM proposal. I mean to comment I'd like to see those other programs in place also funded and expanded. That's my opinion as I'm sure there will be many contradictory opinions to post here soon. It's also my opinion that programs that do increase the educational opportunities within our school district do NOT only benefit the actual student and their family but the entire community. When I hear how public education is a problem and how only half of the country carriers the rest of the country then I know that public education has failed because funding education is not the reason our country has problems. Creating intelligent human beings who learn and create is the backbone of our country. Who do you think creates jobs? Do ignorant people create jobs that grow our economy? We can fund education and teach our youth or we can fund the social programs that help take care of them later, OR fund the prisons that hold them.
Mike Francis January 15, 2014 at 10:08 PM
Ignorant people don't create jobs. But once kids get to high school then they're old enough to show their own initiative and self learn in a lot of areas. This idea of continuing to funnel public money to lazy people needs to stop. By the way, we've had record amounts of snowfall and not one person every knocked on our door to make money by shoveling driveways. There are far too many lazy people who keep proposing that we keep shoveling money into a school system that has garnered few results. And in case you've missed it, the taxpayers of Kendall County pay some of the highest tax rates in the country and the school system has been funded into the billions of dollars. Not enough spending for you yet?
John Weber January 16, 2014 at 09:50 AM
That last comment is highly ignorant in and of itself. "This idea of continuing to funnel public money to lazy people needs to stop." that quote in reference to funding education is just plain ignorant. When we are discussing funding for a STEM school, which specializes in science, technology, engineering and mathematics that is not even close to anything related here. I think that it's a lazy person who does not understand higher education and the benefits it presents to our society. Trying to make a connection to higher educatioin as being lazy is nothing but ignorant! And in case you missed it, which you clearly did, we're not talking about social programs for people who are unemployed in this arcticle or posting. No disputing that people are unhappy about higher taxes, I seriously doubt anyone is ever happy about higher taxes and if someone believes that then they are clearly blinded by their own bias and ignorance.
Mike Francis January 19, 2014 at 02:16 AM
About half of the people in this country are on some sort of public assistance. When you have that many people sitting at home and doing nothing then paying for luxuries in the school district is that much more innapropriate. You've clearly missed my point. I have nothing against higher education, but have a problem with people expecting others to pay for it. Send your kid to Waubonsee or another private institution. Right now, there are all the resources a student could want in the District. Take advantage of those. Heck, your kid can even stay after school and get a free bus ride from the numerous 'shifts' that the busses make. Don't even have to pick Johnny up at school anymore. Again, how many billions of dollars do you need for this District? And would like to be the absolute highest taxed county in the country? We're getting close.
John Weber January 19, 2014 at 02:08 PM
By your math then 50% of our society is on public assistance which obviously infuriates you that anyone received help. Please, please tell us what your business is? I want to ensure that no one who has ever benfited from any type of public assistance does business with you Mr. Francis. I want to ensure that no one feeds your hypocrisy. I have a problem with people like you who use generalizations and blanket statements to spew ignorance and create a society of ignorance because your comments are nothing but ignorant and only exploit certain abuses to feed your own negativity. No one has missed your points that you believe anyone who is not exactly like you in their thinking is wrong and must be taking from your personal tax dollars! Please let us know what methods you use to ensure that none of the people you do business with benefit from any of the luxurious public assistance you speak of? Tell us, do you do business with any person, business or entitity that has someone who benefited from public shools, tax breaks, fire departments, police departments, street cleaning, trash pickup, etc.....? Tell me again by your math the billions of dollars that our local school districts have? Tell me again how many 'free' bus rides there are for everyone's kids? As usualy you've missed the point! Clearly you have no point other than to complain! Please tell us your business' name? I think you should include all of your vast knowledge when you're dealing with your customers. Maybe some of us can help enlighten them too!
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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