There are two stories from this week's Gazette that I think will be of interest to my readers.
First, there is a story about a meeting with Dr. Andrew Chen (the math consultant hired by the superintendent to review K to 12 math). There are opportunities for parents to meet with Dr. Chen tomorrow (Wednesday). Here's the story link: http://gazettenet.com/2010/07/24/math-consultant-available-amherst.
Second, there is a story about the drop in enrollment at Amherst Regional Middle School (http://gazettenet.com/2010/07/24/amherst-middle-school-population-dropping). I want to make two points about this drop in enrollment:
- parents with means (economic - to pay for private school - and/or job-wise - to be able to provide transportation to and from private/charter/choice schools) have many more options than parents without such means ... and it isn't good for our district or our schools if parents of means start to opt out. I hope the Regional SC and the superintendent and the principal take this drop in enrollment very seriously, and I really hope we can take steps (quickly) to make this school a more appealing choice for all families; and
- although some will claim that parents are opting out of this school because of the negativity by certain SC members (like this one), I find it extremely hard to believe that parents are choosing to opt of our schools (and pay large sums of money to a private school and/or spend considerable time transporting their child to/from a private/choice/charter school) simply based on concerns expressed by 1 or 2 SC members -- the costs are simply too great to make such a decision with so little information.
The concerns about the middle school that I've expressed (on this blog, in meetings, in the paper) are concerns that I've heard expressed by many parents (and kids) for YEARS, and I am highly concerned that I'm continuing to hear the same types of concerns from parents of middle school students now as I hear from parents of 12th graders when they reflect on their child's experience in that school: it is one thing to have a problem (which occurs in all districts/schools over time), but it is another thing (and I think an unacceptable thing) to have a problem and refuse to acknowledge it and fix it over such a long period of time. I believe that parents who are considering whether to send their children to this school (in the face of concerns they've personally experienced with older siblings and/or heard from others) MIGHT be convinced to give this school a chance by statements (from the SC, superintendent, and principal) that reflect an awareness and understanding of the concerns parents and students have about this school as well as a commitment to address these concerns with a specific plan (and timeline). However, statements from district leaders that this school is actually excellent, there are no problems, and any concerns simply reflect the difficult age of middle school are hardly reassuring when people's own experience is so dramatically different from such statements. When I talk to kids and parents about the middle school (and I've talked to MANY), there are amazingly nuanced responses about strengths AND weaknesses of the school (suggesting that it is not just "a difficult age" or "a difficult transition"). I'm hopeful that the middle school will seek to build on its strengths, and work diligently (and quickly) on its weaknesses, in the upcoming year ... and I hope that as both a School Committee member who is highly committed to excellent public education for all kids AND as the mother of a rising 7th grader!