A public hearing mandated by state law on Riverhead Charter School’s charter renewal drew supporters of the school to the Riverhead Board of Education Tuesday night.
After Riverhead Charter School executive director and principal Raymond Ankrum introduced the school’s application for extension of its charter to 2022, which includes a near-doubling of its student body, he told the board the plan of the Charter School would “not be as impactful on your population as it might seem.”
The proposed expansion would mean an estimated additional “25 to 35 students per year” from within the Riverhead school district for each of the next five years, Ankrum said. The school is “looking to build our population organically,” Ankrum said. “We’re not looking to backfill.”
Parents and grandparents of Riverhead Charter School students spoke in favor of the extension. No one spoke against it.
Speakers praised the availability of a non-tuition-based alternative to the public schools in Riverhead. Others spoke of the positive experiences their children have had and the ways they’ve benefitted from the education environment offered at the charter school.
One grandparent said his four adult children had all gotten a great education in the Riverhead school system, but said his granddaughter’s experience had not been positive. The difference at the charter school has been “like night and day,” he said. “Certainly, you have Catholic schools and private schools, but they can be very costly, and most parents just can’t afford those kinds of tuitions.”
Sheena Spellman-Hobson spoke about her daughter who had been a student at both Phillips Avenue and Aquebogue Schools. Her daughter had selective mutism and “while she was in Riverhead [schools] she never spoke and basically wasn’t at the grade level she was supposed to be at.” Spellman-Hobson said after transferring her daughter to Riverhead Charter School in the fourth grade, her daughter began speaking within months and has been moved up two grade levels.
Baycan Fideli, who has children in both the public school system and the charter school, said, “I’m a big fan of the Riverhead School District, but I also know something changed with my son – whether it was him or the school district, I cannot pinpoint. I also know that the Charter School alternative worked out – for him.” He continued by saying he thought the Charter School’s “fit, style, size, mission and delivery works for some students.”
Fideli sees the community as too diverse with too many problems to be solved by the public school district alone. “The district has enough on its hands. It’s trying to educate people from every socioeconomic background you can think of,” he said. Fideli said he believes the Charter School “helps the district. The Charter school is one more thing we need to see as having another option on the table.”
Board members made no comment during the hearing and it was closed 13 minutes after it began.