Saturday, January 3, 2004

Nordyke's vision for Harmony continues

Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

ROSELAWN - Staff members at one of Ohio's first charter schools plan to carry on the vision of founder and superintendent David Nordyke, who died Monday after collapsing at Harmony Community School in Roselawn.

The school's principal, Deland McCullough, is expected to take over as superintendent.

Nordyke, 51, was a fierce advocate of charter schools and a feisty leader known to walk school halls with a bullhorn to keep order in his school. Nordyke increased enrollment threefold at Harmony, where students are ages 11 to 22.

A charter school is a publicly-funded, tuition-free school operated by community members, private organizations, nonprofit agencies or other groups.

Classes at the Roselawn school are canceled Monday and Tuesday in Nordyke's memory, said Mary Bridges, a member of the school's management team. Grief counselors on Friday prepared teachers to counsel students.

Nordyke died of heart disease, according to the Hamilton County Coroner's Office.

School personnel say they will continue offering the same individualized education that Nordyke passionately espoused.

"The management team is planning to move forward with his vision and operate the school with the same vision and philosophy," Bridges said.

Nordyke, a former teacher in public, private and parochial schools, wanted to teach students who weren't successful at other schools.

He opened the school in 1998 as one of the first 15 charter schools in Ohio. Nordyke said that students needed small, intimate places where they have personalized learning plans.

He based his curriculum on educational research, said Harmony's special education coordinator David Braukman. For example, Harmony teachers taught subjects like math through the arts for students who were art enthusiasts.

"He was forward-thinking instead of one-size-fits-all," Braukman said.

Demand was high for Harmony, which began in a former dime store at Swifton Commons shopping center in Bond Hill. Two-hundred students enrolled the year; only 60 had been expected. The school grew to more than 600 students this year.

In 2002, the school moved to its present site, the former Jewish Community Center in Roselawn.


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