LANSDALE – Tim Sager is nothing, if not a cheerleader, for the Montgomery Flex Charter School.
As consultant to the school, he aims to drive home the message to parents that Montgomery Flex is the alternative they have been seeking for their children’s education.
Sager did as much at an information meeting Tuesday at Trinity Lutheran Church about the proposed charter school; he implored a small group of parents to show their support at a meeting of the North Penn School Board on Thursday, when the fate of the school will be decided.
To make his point he stressed the differences between a student’s experience at one of the district’s “behemoth” middle and high schools, and the charter school’s “more personalized environment,” with an Internet-based curriculum tailored to the individual student’s needs. Something, according to Sager, you can’t get at a big public school.
“I can’t imagine what it’s like to be number 491 in a class of 1000 students, like at North Penn,” he said, later calling the high school and its ilk, “monuments to superintendents.” “And you guys are stuck with paying for that for a long time.”
“We’re talking about leasing some building space,” he said, adding that the charter school would be located at 616 E. Main Street, inside the former SuperFresh.
If Sager’s model sounds utopian, consider some of the features he mentioned: no more lectures or teacher-led classrooms; little to no homework; strict dress code.
He said a longer school day would limit, if not eliminate, the homework load. Students would be able to socialize with each other through clubs and other activities. While the school won’t have a sports program, an exercise room will be available to students.
“I think it’s important that kids aren’t sitting in front of a computer all day, they need to get up and move around,” he said.
Then there is the matter of bullying. He said that a lot of the students who enroll in the school will be “kids that are bullied.”
“I am hell bent on making this a safe place for kids,” he said. “That’s the magic of charter schools: you can say to a student, ‘You can no longer come here if you continue to misbehave.’ This is a school of choice not of entitlement.”
Sager, a former math teacher at Cheltenham High School, said the school aims to have 210 students enrolled by next fall.
He said it would take about three years for the school to “max out” at 420 students. Initial enrollment will be determined by a lottery in June.
The charter school board would include parents, along with administration officials.
Sager said he first became interested in the charter school model last year after he opened a “blended learning center” in Philadelphia.
“I thought it was a great model, and I thought it would be worth testing it out as a suburban model,” he said.
He presents his plans to the North Penn School Board on Thursday at its 7 p.m. meeting.
“Community support is going to be the biggest factor” in determining the success of the school, he said, adding that parents should bring banners to the meeting to show their support.
“It makes a difference,” he said.
Sager said he anticipates there may be some resistance on the part of the school district to approve a plan that ostensibly takes money out of the public schools.
Under Pennsylvania law, Montgomery Flex would be an independent public school operating under a charter from the North Penn School Board of Directors.
According to Sager, North Penn would pay $10,000 for each student that would attend the charter school, $23,000 for special education students. The district would provide transportation for those students.
Lisa Galinsky attended Tuesday’s meeting with her son Ben Galinsky, a sixth grade student at Walton Farm Elementary. She said she liked the idea of a smaller school with a more personalized curriculum.
“He’s shy but he likes the idea, too,” she said of Ben, as he stood near her.
“He’s a pretty good student, but he sometimes misses his homework, or he gets distracted,” she continued. “I think some kids get swallowed up in a big high school. I’m hoping by the time he gets there, he won’t be like that.”
Another parent said the North Penn School District did well by three of his children, but he wants to send the fourth, a young daughter, to charter school.
“I just think that would be a better fit for her,” he said.
How do you feel about a school opening in a former shopping center?