|Christine Sabathia/Sentinel photo
Synergy Charter Academy’s kindergarten students participate in a morning reading lesson.
Working together as one is how Synergy Charter Academy believes its students, which are of South Los Angeles’ low-income African American and Hispanic populations, can achieve.
Administrators, teachers, parents and students are all actively involved in the reading- and math-based curriculum that founders Randy and Meg Palisoc believe is the right formula to defeat the achievement gap between minorities and their Caucasian peers.
Just in its third year of operation, Synergy’s students earned an Academic Performance Index (API) score of 846—46 points higher than their Caucasian peers statewide—and the school was named 2007 National Charter School of the Year by the Center for Education Reform.
“Our whole goal is to hope to eliminate the achievement gap that has existed among low-income and minority populations in the country,” explains Meg, who is a former teacher of the Los Angeles Unified School District as well as her husband. “What’s incredible is that in three short years we have done that.” What’s even more incredible, she adds, is that they were able to achieve such success despite the challenges they have met concerning their current facility, which is a building leased from the St. Patrick Catholic Church located at 1010 E. 34th Street.
“Every Friday our teachers have to pack up their classrooms and every Monday they have to set them back up,” she says. “So, our biggest goal is to get our own building so our staff can put their energy towards more instruction and so we can serve more kids.”
Currently, Synergy Charter Academy serves 140 students, grades K-5. But next year, the Palisocs will be adding a middle school that is to open in Fall 2008.
The goal of the middle school is to be a model to the nation of how the American public education system can provide students with a strong foundation in math, science and technology so that students can compete both academically and in the workforce with other countries.
The Palisocs also have a long-term plan to open Synergy Scholar Athletic Academy in Fall 2007. It will be a public high school with a focus on both high quality academics and high quality athletics where students will not only graduate as smart athletes or athletic intellectuals, but they will also have the foundation to pursue creative majors in college.
But for now, the Palisocs are committed to what is right before them.
“We really try to focus on a solid, well-rounded curriculum,” says Meg, “but we still focus heavily on reading and math because we believe that’s foundational. We emphasize that it’s foundational to all the other subjects.
“It’s really integrated,” she continues, “reading and math are everywhere. We feel it’s our job to give elementary students that foundation in reading and math in order to open up their chances in all the other subjects.”
Randy adds, “There’s a misconception that if you only focus on reading and math, you’re closing the door on the arts, you’re closing the door on physical education, science and so on. But, we feel it’s the opposite. If students get those foundational skills in reading and math then it’s opening doors to the other areas.”
Randy also describes another part of their curriculum that is essential—fieldtrips, which Synergy students take a minimum of five a year.
“Inner-city kids don’t have the background knowledge that kids in other communities have,” he says. “So, if you’re reading a book about going to another state and flying on an airplane, a lot of our kids have never flown on an airplane before. That’s why we have fieldtrips as an integral part of our curriculum.”
Also just as important is parental involvement. Parents are expected to come to at least one meeting every two months.
“It’s really minimal, but also very powerful,” says Meg. “We try to provide them with very meaningful and empowering knowledge—sometimes hands-on activities they can do with their children and other times information about our mission and priorities.”
For further information, visit www.WeAreSynergy.org or contact Randy and Meg Palisoc at (323) 233-8559.