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Charter School in Delray Beach Begins Oral History Project

photo caption: Helping launch the Toussaint L'Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice in Delray Beach are Carmina Brise, Elizabeth Leach, Diane Richard Allerdyce, Joyce Richard, Robein Adelman and Joe Bernadel. The charter school is scheduled to open in August.

On Monday, April 9, representatives of the planned Toussaint L'Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice will host an informational program about their upcoming "Reminiscence Project" in Oscelola Park and surrounding Delray Beach neighborhoods. Open to the public--but especially targeted at students in grades 8 and 9, the meeting will take place 6-7:30 p.m. at the West Atlantic Branch of the Palm Beach County Library System, 777 W. Atlantic Ave. For details, call 243-3136.

story by Susanna Laurenti, Staff Writer for the Boca Raton/Delray Beach News, April 1, 2001.

small public high school with a progressive, arts-based curriculum centered around the concepts of social justice and multiculturalism may seem like a high-minded academic fantasy in the overcrowded, under-funded Palm Beach County School System.

But if some determined educators have their way, such a school will open in Delray Beach in August.

According to its founders, the Toussaint L'Ouverture High School for Arts and Social Justice, a charter school, will offer diverse teaching methods focusing on hands-on instruction, parental involvement and an appreciation for the individuality of every student.

"I want to provide younger kids with the type of innovative instruction possible at the college level," said Diane Richard-Allerdyce, 42, a Lynn University professor who is also the high school's chief academic officer.

Chief Operating Officer Joe Bernadel, formally the head of Delray Beach's multicultural Milagro Center, had similar dreams.

"We are trying to build an institution in which minority groups can recognize themselves and be reflected as part of the community," said Bernadel, 53. Shortly after partnering with Richard-Allerdyce in 1999, Bernadel quit his job to work fulltime on opening the high school.

Already approved by the county school board, the school will serve 150 ninth- and 10th-graders initially but eventually will become a full high school with 375 students, Bernadel says. It is named after a famous Haitian freedom fighter, but Bernadel and Richard-Allerdyce stress that they want to attract a culturally diverse student body.

"We don't want any child to feel like a minority," said Bernadel.

According to Bernadel, social justice is the idea of societal equity among people of different genders and races. That value will be embodied at the Social Justice High School through a variety of community outreach projects, one of which was discussed recently at the Delray Beach Library, 29 S.E.Fourth Ave.

About 30 people turned out to hear about The Reminiscence Project, an endeavor that will match young people with older residents to conduct interviews and create an "oral history" of Delray Beach and surrounding areas, said Richard-Allerdyce.

"Research shows that with practical experience people understand each other better," she said. "With this project, we hope people will get to know other cultures."

Richard-Allerdyce said some of those who turned out were perspective Social Justice High School students, while others were older residents. The groups will begin meeting early next month and present a storytelling festival in June.

Ultimately, Richard-Allerdyce hopes the project will be housed in the high school and carried out by its students.

The school's location has not yet been decided, but Richard-Allerdyce said it could be housed in a leased building in north Delray Beach. Class sizes at the school will not exceed 20 students, said Bernadel.

Charter schools are publicly funded, privately operated institutions that must meet the curriculum requirements of public schools but are free from some of the state and local regulations that they must adhere to.

As a result, charter schools are increasingly popular with parents looking for educational alternatives for their children.

Reprinted with permission of the Delray Beach News. To subscribe Please call 893-6400.

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