A team of administrators at School District 65 has come up with three options for Oakton School that they believe will promote cohesiveness among the three academic programs offered there: general education (Gen Ed), two-way immersion (TWI) and the African-Centered Curriculum (ACC).  These three programs coexist in an historic school building at 436 Ridge Ave., with beautiful gardens, a spacious yard and a playground that make it one of the District’s most beautiful sites.

We applaud the work of the team, composed of Oakton’s Principal Wayne Williams, Assistant Principal Deborah Osher, Bilingual Programs Director Lauren Leitao, ACC and Social Studies Director Jamilla Pitts, Family and Community Engagement Manager Ismalis Nunez and Assistant Superintendent John Price. They appear to have looked at the school and its community with respect and understanding of the strengths and the challenges of the school.  Two of these challenges are the chronic underperformance of the school as a whole and the fact that a significant number of the students – 71% of the 410 enrollees – are classified as low-income.  Among its strengths are strong parent groups, good teachers and new leadership.

The three options for Oakton School are a Global Citizenship & Social Justice Academy, an Oakton Cultural Academy: Where Identity Meets Inquiry and an Oakton Builder Academy: Service Learning for Community Growth. After input from the Oakton community, the District 65 Board will select an option that will serve as an overlay for the school and its three programs.

Each of the three proposed academies takes into consideration the three academic programs of Oakton and allows for cross-academic cooperation.

At present, students who begin the Gen Ed, the ACC or the TWI program as kindergartners remain with their cohorts either through fourth (ACC) or fifth (Gen Ed and TWI) grade. Having cross-program projects will help students normally separated during the school day learn from and about each other and stimulate learning and cross-cultural receptiveness.

We are excited to see that project-based learning will be embedded in whatever Oakton Academy evolves. This type of learning stimulates intellectual curiosity and helps develop problem-solving skills and critical thinking. These skills will build upon themselves.  A student who can think a problem through to its solution is likely to feel more confident about solving the next problem, and more eager to do so.

We encourage the District 65 Board and administration to examine these options carefully. Each has something to offer, each is appealing and each is distinctive, but in the end the decision must be what will work to bring cohesiveness to a tripartite building and to teachers and families who have invested in the school.