In 1996, a graduate student of mine, working on his doctorate in education, told me that instead of writing a dissertation he was going to write an application for Alachua County’s first charter school. He asked if I would be on the founding board of directors and I have served happily and proudly ever since. The graduate student, Neil Drake, was the school’s first principal and math teacher. Today, having built a beautiful campus on NE 15th Street, he serves as the Project Director and adviser to the Board of The One Room School House.
The One Room School House has grown and evolved over the past nineteen years but it has certainly kept true to its mission: to provide a high quality, private school atmosphere and education to families that cannot afford a hefty tuition. Charter schools are public schools and are absolutely free to all students. They are one of the few real choice options within the public system. For families desperate for something beyond the typical in elementary education, The One Room School House has been a life saver.
The One Room School House was the first charter school in the state of Florida to receive accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. In their accreditation report, the SACS team wrote that One Room was a “unique and successful school meeting the needs of all students,” with “a very dedicated and competent staff who put forth extra effort.” “The school has an excellent facility that equates to their mission and goals,” they continued, featuring a, “superbly equipped technology lab.” Most importantly, the SACS team noted a, strong school, home and community relationship.”
This is no surprise to anyone who has watched the school emerge over the past two decades. The One Room School House provides elementary education in a safe, family friendly environment where students are encouraged to achieve personal bests. Students are served according to their individual needs. Nothing is mass produced. Attention to detail is the hallmark of this fine school. Principal Sarah Sonberg, her staff, and the entire school family should be very proud.
Families that are looking for a school in which their students can excel should investigate Gainesville’s first and best charter school, The One Room School House.
By Arthur Newman, Professor Emeritus
University of Florida
College of Education