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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.

Greg Nelson January 15, 2014 at 09:30 AM
Seems that Oswego now has cold feet. Just think, 50 already Bright kids with huge futures will get the shaft if it doesn't happen. Just think what would happen when 50 kids return to the High School what mark they may make by raising the bar 1 more notch! I have two that were BRIGHT kids and I had to send then to Private schools (TOP 10 in Private Schools) and now in College again TOPS so why not give 50 the chance to be more. If you turn your back you have turned because you think 50 can't make a difference. Time to maybe really look at education in America !
Truth Detector January 15, 2014 at 03:17 PM
Agree with you Greg. I hope the Oswego school board members do vote for this STEM Partnership School. It is the only kind like it in the country. It has the potential to transform education in America. 4 school districts coming together, with university and corporate educational and financial support. The state of IL has also donated money towards this unique opportunity. Sure this is only benefiting 50 kids initially from each school district but all of those courses, curriculum and knowledge will be brought back to the local school district where it will benefit all the kids! This is not costing taxpayers more money as the money is equal to if these school districts would educate the kids themselves. This is not costing the school district more money and they are not losing money as their funding stays the same from the state of IL. The benefit is you get money donated from the Dunham Foundation and other investments from corporations and the direction from a university. This is a win-win for those 50 kids from each district, teachers, the school district, and other kids in those respective districts (long-term). There is no negative here that I can see for anyone involved. If Oswego feels they can do this on their own with no money, go for it! In turn they will be doing a dis-service to their whole school district. This is true partnership and collaboration and educators are looking at this from the local, state and national levels. Golden Opportunity!!!

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