Following a week of orientation, fifth-grader Hideo Anthony is already getting used to the stricter rules at the new Veritas Preparatory Charter School in Springfield. “The rules are different,” says Anthony on the first full day of classes, “and I think it’s a good way to get kids to learn better.”
Getting ready for college is what it’s all about at the Pine Street school, where 81 students, all wearing the uniform of black collared shirts with the school’s purple and blue insignia, black shoes, black socks and khaki pants, had their first full day on August 27. And getting ready for college starts with the basics, such as learning how to be polite, professional and attentive.
As students arrive between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m., teachers greet them by name and the students respond in kind. Mary Gregory, who dropped off daughter Chante, says, “I love the uniforms. They look a lot neater.”
|It’s about holding [students] to high expectations, but it’s also about being positive and joyful.|
“Our focus is to ensure students have the solid academic foundation to go to ninth grade on the college prep track and excel at AP classes and extracurriculars,” says Executive Director Rachel Romano. “We’re building scholarly habits. It’s about holding them to high expectations, but it’s also about being positive and joyful.”
Romano explains that with many of Springfield’s fourth-graders reading below grade level, classes will initially focus on bringing the new fifth-graders up to or above grade level. She also says that some 20 percent of the class has an Individualized Education Program, or IEP, meaning they need extra help.
Students have a longer school day and school year to ensure that they learn math and literacy. The entering class was chosen by lottery in March. According to Romano, they plan on expanding the school over the next few years to accommodate up to eighth grade.
Along with academic development, daily advisory periods stress character development. One display board in the hallway explains that Veritas means truth and contains quotes about various views of the word, such as Albert Einstein’s “Anyone who doesn’t take truth seriously in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones either.”
Principles are presented with easy-to-remember acronyms, such as D.R.I.V.E., or Determination, Responsibility, Integrity, Vision and Enthusiasm, words that are displayed on posters throughout the school. There is a period called D.E.A.R, or Drop Everything And Read. Students learn to be Prepared, Respectful, Engaged and Professional, or P.R.E.P.
To make working towards their goals fun, Romano says students receive 100 “scholar dollars” in their so-called paycheck each week. Teachers will make deductions for breaking the rules and deposits for performing above expectations. This “money” can be spent at auctions of Falcons’ tickets and school supplies, or used at a school store containing college sweatshirts (donations welcome) and other things.
“What do you do when you get a deduction?” Romano asks the fifth-graders before they leave breakfast.
“Bounce back!” someone says after being called on.
And with that, the students leave the cafeteria, passing by a wall decorated with college pennants, and head out for advisory period where their homework is collected in rooms named for their teachers’ alma maters.
Visit veritasprepcharterschool.org to learn more about Veritas and its philosophy.