charter thing isn’t working out too well…
I made the decision to enroll the kids at this school based on the Tucson school’s success; they are one of a handful of schools ranked excelling by the AZ Dept of Ed. Unfortunately it doesn’t look like the Phoenix campus is going to enjoy the same success; at least not for a few more years, and I don’t have that kind of time. I sent the email below to the principal of the kids’ current school a week ago and haven’t gotten a response. I’m more frustrated by the day. I’m probably going to be moving the kids to another school within the next two weeks. I read an article in the paper last spring about school choice and learned that Kyrene (a neighboring school district with a very good reputation) provides transportation to one of their schools, and they have room for both the kids. I had considered it but didn’t know anyone whose children attended there so I nixed it. But I’ve since found out one of Halle’s friends who lives in our area goes to school there, so I called her mother last week. She said she loves loves loves it and has absolutely no complaints. The only drawback (and this was also a factor last spring) is that they have a handful of bus stops in our area. Last spring, the two closest stops are both close to a mile from our house. This fall, they added a stop at the community center the kids went to over the summer, because they opened an after school program that hadn’t existed in the spring. Problem is, they’re short a staff member or two and we’re on a waiting list until they get someone else hired.
I’m trying to figure out when Ro will be home, or how close the city is to hiring another staff member. I am to the point though, with this f-ing school that I may not be able to wait for Ro to get home or the city program to open up, and may have to let the kids take the city bus that seven-tenths of a mile and go to my sitter’s or a neighbor’s house, or home. I’m not terribly comfortable with them taking the bus even that short distance, but nothing is changing at this school and I’m becoming more and more worried that they’ll fall behind. I keep telling myself that whichever of the two evils I choose, it’s only temporary. But that’s not helping; I don’t have any idea what time from ‘temporary’ is… it could be a week or months.
I am so frustrated with Ro right now. It looks like there’s a good chance that Northwest will offer the contractors permanent positions, and I think he’s considering taking an offer, if they make him one. It’s probably premature for me to be upset because a) he hasn’t gotten an offer and b) just because he gives it consideration doesn’t mean it’s a done deal. But it’s just one more thing to think about at night. Him taking a permanent job out of state was not part of the deal. This was supposed to be a temporary thing, just because they were paying so well and offering so much paid training. If he said thanks but no thanks, he’d be back here in a few more weeks (I think… I’m not sure how long he’s obligated to stay) and just wait until the after school program opens up before taking another job. Then I wouldn’t have to stress about the kids going to a rotten school, or having to fend for themselves after school.
I wanted to follow up with you regarding our meeting three weeks ago. I am disappointed to report that in the last three weeks, I have not seen any significant improvement for Halle (1st grade). Briefly before the holiday, she was bringing home extra worksheets that were closer to the level of work she was doing in kinder; however, one night she had two of the same worksheet and indicated the teacher wanted her to do the same worksheet, twice. Additionally, she had a Saxon worksheet she had completed without error the week before. I spoke with Mrs. Reed on the telephone, who indicated she was giving extra worksheets to her advanced students and confirmed that she was giving them duplicates for practice. I could not think of a tactful way to share my thoughts on the logic of that practice, but I did express that while I appreciated her efforts to challenge Halle, having the advanced children do the same assignment twice and giving them extra worksheets in addition to the regular classwork almost punishes a child for being academically gifted. I pointed out that it seemed more logical to simply give the child work that is academically appropriate to their skill level. Mrs. Reed indicated to me then that she had to follow the curriculum. This is completely at odds with what I was told by Marilyn Eisenberg prior to enrolling my children at SSA and what we discussed in August, which was that while there was no gifted program, my children would be allowed to accelerate within the curriculum and would not be held back. I haven’t seen any ‘extra’ worksheets since that conversation, but the work Halle brings home continues to be the equivalent of the sight words and spelling words that her kindergarten teacher assigned during the first few weeks of school. I ran into Halle’s kindergarten teacher last week and when she asked about Halle’s new school, all I could say was, ‘At least she’s bored in a class of 10 instead of being bored in a class of 25.’
I also mentioned that Tyler had not had any assigned homework. He started having homework the following week, however, he almost never brings it home because he has finished it in class. I have inquired with Mr. Behrens multiple times as to whether Tyler is indeed turning in his homework and his answers are generally vague. I have made it a point to speak with Mr. Behrens on more than one occasion about Tyler’s severe executive function deficits and hyperactivity; as the parent of an ADHD child Mr. Behrens assured me that he was very familiar with the needs of students with ADHD. Unfortunately, I have not seen any evidence of this. There has been no follow up from Mr. Behrens confirming whether or not Tyler is turning in his homework. I have also seen no graded homework or classwork. I have asked Tyler if Mr. Behrens ever gives reminders such as, ‘make sure you have your books or assignments, etc; either to him to the class at large, and he says there are none. It has also become apparent that Tyler spends a considerable amount of time in class where he is supposed to ‘find something quiet to do’ while Mr. Behrens teaches the other grade. Never having taught myself I can’t say I know the best way to manage any classroom, mixed grade or otherwise, but leaving about a dozen children, at least one of which has hyperactive and impulsive behaviors, to their own devices seems unwise at best. What I understand from Tyler, and I admit that his perspective is not always the whole picture, Mr. Behrens instructs them to work on homework, read, or draw while he teaches the other class. I don’t get the impression from Tyler that he usually has any specific classwork he is supposed to be doing while the other grade receives instruction. I don’t think this classroom environment has the structure or organization that Tyler needs to be successful, and I am having an increasingly difficult time picturing my child in it for one year, much less two (although if we stay the year, perhaps next year enrollment will have increased enough to have separate 4/5 classrooms). I mentioned in our meeting that Tyler seems to have a great deal of time to draw – frankly I’ve become concerned this 4/5 split classroom has left my child only being instructed about half the time he’s in the classroom. I admit to being spoiled as Tyler has had some truly exceptional teachers, but he has never had time in any other classroom, not even with the first grade teacher I thought was mediocre at best, ever had time to sit and draw, nor told to bring a book from home to keep busy with. And I should probably ditto that for Halle; she comes home with anywhere from one to five pages of notebook paper covered in pictures and with little notes written on them. Additionally, the work that Tyler is doing, particularly in math and spelling is not the level of work he was doing in third grade. I’m especially concerned to have read on Mr. Behrens homework log that the 4th and 5th graders are both doing the chapter in the spelling book. This week’s words definitely easier than what I’m used to seeing Tyler bring home and I can’t help but wonder what fifth grade would hold for him in this classroom.
A side note: I see no correlation between the spelling words and any of his subject matter and am not sure what is being done regarding integration of subjects. In 2nd and 3rd grade, Tyler’s spelling words ALWAYS were related to what he was studying in math, science, social studies, or language arts. My daughters spelling words at the beginning of her kindergarten year were always variations of the group of sight words she was learning, and by the end of the year her teacher had all but given up trying to challenge her ‘apple group’ and started asking them what they wanted to learn to spell… so Halle came home with spelling words like ‘significant’ and ‘cooperate’.
Finally, I wanted to comment about the after school activities. I was very perplexed to get the list of proposed activities and see that the only options available to my 4th grader would be music, sports, and spelling. There is nothing for science or math or strategic thinking (chess, etc), which was what I was expecting from SSA. I left a public school that offered band to all 4-8 students as well as football, basketball, soccer, and softball, so the fact that his options are basically a watered down version of extracurriculars he could have had at the school I pulled him from is incredibly disappointing. I was even more perplexed that K-2 students have three more after school options than the 4th graders do, and that their options are more academic than those offered to older, more mature students with longer attention spans. Can you give me any insight into those disparities?