STEAM Charter School Looks At Milford

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School-Bus-lgA proposal of a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Math) Charter School for middle-school aged children is currently being written in the first step of many to open a facility for students in the Milford area. With a focus on Science, Technology, Engineering and Math through the Arts, STEAM Charter Academy (SCA) will aim to create a “challenging learning environment that fosters innovation and creativity” and “prepares students for successful involvement in an increasingly technological society.”

Architects of the SCA, Karen Norwood and Derrick Southard share an experience in education through the STEM curriculum and believe that a focal point on the Arts will offer an opportunity for kids to develop the skills they need to be competitive in today’s global market.

“The STEAM Charter Academy will bring a tremendous asset to families in Milford and in the state of Delaware,” stated Southard. “Engaging students in grades five through eight in the STEAM curriculum through the Arts will prepare them for rigorous high school STEM-related coursework and academic success in post-secondary education.” Derrick Southard is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Youth Enterprise Services Inc. (YES), a 16-year old non-profit corporation in Maryland that provides a continuum of community based programs. Previously Vice President within Bank of America’s commercial real estate lending group, Southard has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from the University of Alabama and a Masters of Arts degree in City and Regional Planning from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.

Karen Norwood, an associate professor of mathematics at North Carolina State University and former Director of Education for the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City, Missouri, has previous experience with the STEAM curriculum having taught mathematics at the elementary, secondary and college levels. She earned her Bachelor’s Degree in Mathematics from Cedar Crest College, her Master’s degree in Mathematics from Kutztown University and Ed.D in Mathematics education from Temple University.

“Classes at the STEAM Charter Academy will be designed to help students apply what they learn to problems they will face when making decisions after they leave school,” commented Norwood. “Students will learn how to communicate problems, understand how subjects apply to the outside world, present ideas to others and work together to create solutions.”

The target population for SCA is students in grades five through eight living within a 10 mile radius of Milford. Norwood and Southard stated that they chose the state of Delaware because of the State’s commitment to expanding STEM degrees and careers for Delaware students, seen through Governor Markell’s creation of the Delaware STEM Council. As their research continued, the group chose Milford as the city to develop the STEAM school because they believe the city has embraced and identified itself as welcoming to the Arts.

“We want to provide an education alternative that we feel will be an opportunity for many students to pursue a career in fields that they may have thought were unattainable to them in the past,” commented Norwood. “I would love to see students say I can go to college, there are more opportunities for me. If they want to make a decent living and raise a family they need a background in science and math.”

SCA will have an open enrollment policy and will accept all students until the capacity of 250 students, 125 fifth graders and 125 six graders, is reached. Once capacity has been satisfied, a lottery will be implemented to determine admission. Admission preferences will be given to students in the Milford School District, the children of SCA Board members and siblings of students currently enrolled. In addition, if a lottery is needed, systems will be put in place to ensure that the lottery selects a diverse group representative of the population of the areas served in respect to race, gender and ethnicity.

A proposal of the STEAM Charter Academy in Milford is currently being written and will be presented to the Delaware Department of Education no later than January 2, 2014. If accepted, the SCA will be notified by May of 2014, where they will then begin the work of finding a location, building a team of faculty and enrolling students. They plan for the STEAM Charter Academy to open its doors in two years’ time.

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