Charter Peace School Readies Its Application
Byline: ANNE WILLIAMS The Register-Guard
When they hatched the idea for a peace school almost a year ago, Wendy Strgar and Rebeccah White sensed that it would fill a niche.
Now, with the United States assuming an increasingly combative posture on the world stage following last September's terrorist attacks, teaching children the principles of cooperation, conflict resolution and multicultural awareness has become imperative, they contend.
"I really want children every day to learn what it means to be peaceful, and build on that concept," said Strgar, a mother of four and a former career counselor. "I mean, really - you have to begin with the children."
The two will make their case for the Eugene Children's Peace Academy before the Eugene School Board this Wednesday. Based on their application and public testimony that night, the board will decide next month whether to approve their bid for a charter school contract.
The school would open in fall 2003, serving grades kindergarten through 8 if enrollment met expectations. Its mission would be to prepare children to live in harmony with their global and local communities and the natural world. An integrated curriculum would focus on environmental sustainability, peace studies, global citizenship and self-discovery.
The academy would be the fourth charter school to open in Eugene since the 1999 passage of a state law meant to spur innovation and choice by allowing publicly funded charter schools. The Village School, Ridgeline Montessori Public Charter School and the Pioneer Youth Corps Military Academy all opened in fall 2000.
Strgar was involved early on in both The Village School and Ridgeline Montessori, and she is familiar with the sometimes bumpy path to charterdom. She had pulled away from both schools by last October, when she awoke from a nap one day with the idea for a peace school crystallizing in her mind.
About the same time, White had stepped up her involvement in the local peace movement in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks and was focused on bringing conflict resolution and other peace curriculum into schools. She'd been completing her master's degree in education.
White saw an ad Strgar had placed in Eugene Weekly seeking like-minded organizers for the peace school, and the two connected.
Earlier this year, they received a $50,000 federal charter school planning grant through the Oregon Department of Education. Should the charter win board approval, they'll receive an additional $300,000 to help the school through its first couple of years.
White has been the lead coordinator on the proposed curriculum, which she said will focus on central themes and questions, such as, "What does it mean to be a global citizen? …