Below is an excerpt from our original charter proposal, which was created in 1996.
In 1995, a group of concerned parents and other community members began meeting informally to discuss improving the quality of education in Walton County. Meetings continued every six to eight weeks with participation from individuals in Seagrove, Seaside, Grayton Beach, Destin, Freeport, and Niceville, among other places. The message was clear: quality education is a top priority of many citizens (and would-be citizens) of our northwest Florida neighborhoods.
Over time, the discussion began to focus on the desirability of developing a small population neighborhood school to serve young people in grades six, seven, and eight.
The concept for the proposed Seaside Neighborhood School is informed by
- input from parents and interested citizens regarding the needs of this unique geographical area
- recent research on how children learn and how teachers teach for understanding
- Florida Department of Education Curriculum Frameworks, Grades 6, 7, and 8
- Florida’s Blueprint 2000 and other performance-based education initiatives
- Sunshine State Standards approved by the Florida State Board of Education on May 29, 1996
- Turning Points: Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century. A Report of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development (1989)
- Great Transitions: Preparing Adolescents for a New Century: Concluding Report of the Carnegie Council on Adolescent Development (1995)
- research on the effectiveness of small, neighborhood schools
A Small School (fewer than 200 students)
Close to Existing and Future Neighborhoods
Our intention to create and maintain a small school is consistent with our mission and is supported by a significant body of scholarly work.
in 1989, the Carnegie Council’s Task Force on the Education of Young Adolescents wrote in Turning Points Preparing American Youth for the 21st Century
“Many large middle grade schools function as mills that contain and process endless streams of students…Such settings virtually guarantee that the intellectual and emotional needs of youth will go unmet…
The enormous middle grade school must be restructured in a more humane scale. The student should, upon entering middle grade school, join a small community in which people — students and adults — get to know each other well to create a climate for intellectual development.” (p.37)
A study conducted by John Goodlad (A Place Called School, 1984) demonstrated that the smallest schools “were better at solving their problems, more intellectually oriented, and had more caring teachers and greater parent and student satisfaction.” (see “Small Schools, Great Expectations” Education Leadership article)
Deborah Meier, recipient of a MacArthur Foundation Fellowship and author of The Power of Their Ideas (1995) devotes a chapter of her book to “Small Schools” and outlines reasons why they are essential. She concludes that “Small autonomous schools are, when all is said and done, a way to reestablish for us all, adult and children, the experience of community, of conversation, of the stuff of public as well as academic life.” (p.118)
The setting for the proposed charter middle school is in the lyceum of the town of Seaside, a successful living example of the New Urbanism, a movement whose practices support the following principles:
Neighborhoods should be diverse in use and population;
communities should be designed for the pedestrian and transit as well as the car;
cities and towns should be shaped by physically defined and universally accessible public spaces and community institutions;
urban places should be framed by architecture and landscape design that celebrate local history, climate, ecology, and building practice.
Our vision of a “neighborhood” school in this context is that schools should be sized and located to enable children to walk or bicycle to them. Our students’ safety and sense of community are supported by this arrangement.
A “Classroom” Which Extends Beyond the School Itself
Through the use of technology as an educational tool as well as the use of the surrounding pristine physical environment for certain learning experiences, our students will be encouraged to search for knowledge beyond the limits of the school room.
High Expectations for Students
In the book The Middle School and Beyond, a publication of the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (1992), The authors discuss “achievable challenges” in the middle grades. They note that “teachers serve children particularly well when their standards and learning challenges require students to stretch themselves to succeed, so long as the degree of stretching is within students’ reach.” (p.22).
Among the advantages of a small school is the enhanced ability of the faculty to know what their students’ achievable challenges might be, to offer increased support, and to spend more time with each student toward meeting those challenges.