New Roots Charter School

Faculty, staff help launch a sustainability-focused school.

There’s about to be a new K-12 school in Ithaca, thanks in large part to the efforts of a committed group of IC educators. The school has a unique mission based on systems thinking for a sustainable future, and aims to prepare young people to be successful in a rapidly changing local, regional, and global economy. Its broad, interdisciplinary curriculum uses the study of the natural world and community sustainability as organizing themes.

New Roots Charter School will begin accepting students next year; a downtown location will mean students are connected to the community with easy access to service and experiential learning opportunities.

Ithaca College’s Partnerships in Sustainability Education program was a catalyst for the development of New Roots, one of the first fully integrated models of sustainability education at the secondary level in the nation. PSE, a collaboration between Ithaca College and EcoVillage at Ithaca (EVI), was established by a National Science Foundation Grant in 2002, then incorporated into IC’s operating budget in 2006–7. The mission of PSE is “to foster sustainability thinking and practice at IC, at EVI, and in the surrounding region.”

“We haven’t quite seen a school like this before,” commented a member of the SUNY Board of Trustees who sits on the Committee on Charter Schools before the board voted on New Roots’ status. “This is new and different, and that’s what we’re about. . . . We’ll watch this one with great interest.” 

Ithaca College faculty and staff members are key players in the new school. The lead applicant and founding principal of New Roots is Tina Nilsen-Hodges, an IC lecturer. Jason Hamilton, associate professor of biology and core faculty member of the environmental studies program, is chair and former provost Peter Bardaglio is vice chair of the board of trustees, which also includes Roger Richardson, associate vice president for academic/student affairs and dean for the first-year experience; Kathryn Caldwell, assistant professor of psychology; and Granger Macy, associate professor of management in the business school. IC recruitment web writer and content coordinator Elise Nicol is website programmer.