Parents form new private school

Marietta will soon be the location of a completely new private school, as a group of parents and educators have come together to form and open the Veritas Classical Academy beginning at the start of the 2014-2015 school year.

Veritas Academy is a non-chartered, non-tax-supported school that will open for students in fall for pre-k through sixth grade.

Operating under a classical method of education, the private school was formed by local parents, teachers and citizens who said they were dissatisfied with the current state of the public school system, specifically the Common Core curriculum standards.

“This has been in the works since last summer when it became apparent that Common Core was in to stay,” said Khadine Ritter, of Marietta, one of the school’s founders and a parent. “There is something better that should be offered. Not being in a big city, we don’t have a lot of options.”

Common Core is a set of expectations adopted by Ohio in 2010 that creates model curriculum that students must learn in each grade, backed up by corresponding standardized tests.

Ritter and her husband, Kevin, were both among Veritas’ early founders.

The academy’s board of advisors includes scholars and local educators, including Marietta High School Spanish teacher Jade Thompson and Marietta Middle School English teacher Steve Parlin.

Marietta City Schools Superintendent Harry Fleming said Thursday he was aware of the school’s development and opening and was aware of the district teachers involved, but said without knowing more about the situation that he did not wish to comment.

John Charlton, spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said that a school that operates without any kind of charter can operate almost completely autonomously.

“If they are not chartered, then we have almost no authority over them,” he said.

Under Ohio Administrative Code, Veritas Academy will be able to operate free from most state education standards, but must hold a school year of no less than 182 days. Parents or school administrators must verify that a child is enrolled, and the school must report that it is in compliance with those rules during the fall of each school year.

Ritter said the inspiration to start the school came from a desire to give children the opportunity to be educated in the way that many people’s parents and grandparents experienced in school.

“We’re returning to what we used to do,” she said.

Ritter said the board plans to start with grades up to six, but after the school is opened will begin adding grades yearly until Veritas Academy becomes a full pre-k through 12th grade school. By that point, without a charter, seniors will still receive a diploma, though it will be outside of the state of Ohio’s official guidelines.

“They’ll still take the same ACTs and SATs, still apply for college just like everyone else, and they’ll still get a diploma,” Ritter said.

Veritas’ classical curriculum stresses memorization early on, and soon develops into middle school and high school, where students are expected to integrate critical learning into the study of a variety of liberal arts subjects.

Curriculum is designed to reject outcome-based learning, but instead stresses facts, logic and intelligent language, according to the school’s website.

The school is structured by clusters, where two grades will be clustered into one.

Veritas is also not considered a religious school, but rather one that reaffirms religious values taught at home.

“You can recognize some of the elements of classical education. It’s not something we experience because it’s not taught generally anymore,” Ritter said. “That used to be the method of education.”

The school has garnered the support of some local educators and former ones, as well as parents in the region.

“The founders are a group of local parents that have their children in different schools; some in private, some home-schooled and some are or have been in the public setting,” Ritter said. “We are all disappointed with the options that are available now.”

The board hopes that by establishing a competitive school with high standards of its own, that other schools in the area will be pushed to improve.

“The adoption of the Common Core in the schools have made things that much worse,” Ritter said. “Common Core isn’t the problem, it’s only just a symptom.”

Families can begin to apply to Veritas on March 1, and interviews with students will be conducted soon after in March and April.

A location for the school is still in the process of becoming official, but the board has already begun the process of recruiting and interviewing teachers, and a detailed curriculum, dress code and tuition plan is outlined at the school’s website.

Thompson and Parlin, the Marietta teachers currently serving on the school’s advisory board, did not return calls for comment Thursday.

A informational meeting will be held in the basement meeting room of the Washington County Public Library in Marietta today at noon. Though it is open to anyone, the room capacity is limited to 25 people. Ritter said the meeting is designed to better educate interested parties about the curriculum and the application process.

Veritas will also be holding a series of free lectures throughout spring to educate potential families about classical education at Washington State Community College in the Arts & Science Building in Room 106.