I am writing to you with an extremely heavy heart. After almost twenty years in this beloved school, I am announcing my retirement. This is very bittersweet for me, because I have come to really know and believe in the wonderful children you have graciously shared with me over the years. I have had the wonderful opportunity to watch them as beginning Kindergarteners learning to navigate around the school independently, and learning the correct bus number to take them back home at the end of the school day. Each of them has a different birthday, and they come in a variety of sizes. Some have had the advantage of having attended a preschool program, but many have not. They will all learn and develop in their own very unique learning style, and at their very own unique rate. By no means are they standardized. They are however, the very best that you have placed in our trust and care. Our job is to nurture them, and guide them along the path in becoming lifelong learners, and kind, caring people.
Throughout the course of my years, many of the children have shared with me just how overwhelming elementary school is for them. There is so much for them to learn. Some of them struggle to learn to read, and know that they are a little behind their classmates when it comes to the actual reading level that they are on --- in other words, each child learns to read at a different rate than their peers. Some children have a form of dyslexia which has been medically diagnosed, and must work their way through all sorts of frustrations when learning to read. They need the gift of time. It is unfair for them to be subjected to taking a state mandated test that is 2 to 3 years above their grade level. It is heartbreaking to watch children have meltdowns, and shutdown because the reading level, and questions on a state level test are so far above their reading level.
This year, we were able to enrich our science curriculum through the use of environmental instructors from Earth Spirit Educational Programs. Children in grades K through 5 were able to go outdoors throughout the school year. Children need opportunities to get outdoors and learn about their environment, and nature. They need to learn about their surroundings. It is important that children feel a sense of freedom. It is my hope that you will continue to support this excellent program for years to come.
I can no longer watch as corporate elites tear the heart out of public education due to their own personal greed and avarice. I cannot stand by in silence as they promote five week teacher training programs, and student test scores linked to teacher evaluations. The tests are developmentally inappropriate. To continue to use these assessments in this manner is malpractice. Parents have a right to see these tests and to know what the expectations are for their child. You will need to be aware of the U.S. Secretary of Education, John King’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). While ESSA allows states to pass laws allowing parents to opt children out of taking the state tests, the draft regulations would make any such state “opt out” law simply a vehicle to setup high opt-out schools to be labeled failing. This would put parents in the position of, either exercising their right to direct their children’s education or, putting their children’s school into the crosshairs of the federal government’s over-reaching regulations. Last year, Allendale had 75% opt-out. We would be labeled a failing school according to this dichotomy. The battle continues. Please remain vigilant. I certainly will.
I am thankful for the opportunity to have watched thousands of children become fine, contributing members of our community, and feel that an important part of my heart and soul will remain within the halls of Allendale. I thank you for having welcomed me into your homes, to have invited me to dance recitals, First Communions, graduation parties and weddings.