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Old 10-16-2007, 10:09 AM
 
1,727 posts, read 1,440,837 times
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Hi everyone!

OK, some of you know that we moved here at the end of the summer and didn't get into our neighborhood elementary school. Neither one is among the best in Lexington, but the one we ended up with has, like, a majority of children getting subsidized lunches, etc. And for what it's worth, the most recent CATS scores will bring its rating down even further. (Yes, someone guessed the school a couple of weeks ago, should be easy to guess, I don't mind giving the name, but hate to do so given the context here ...). It also has pathetic PTA participation - although the handful of parents who attend the PTA are very dedicated.

Everyone at this school has been very good to us, so I've been trying to keep my daughter going even though she's been very stressed out in her kindergarten class. I don't know what is typical and not typical since this is my first experience with a public school. However, my mother (an educator) came to visit and said it was like "a military academy" and that usually kindergarteners were more segregated from the rest of the school.

And for what it's worth, I have offered my volunteer services non-stop since I've been here (I have a master's, publications, great work experience, and volunteered constantly in my daughter's preschools back home). They just haven't taken me up on anything. I keep hearing that the classrooms need help and the main office needs help, but here they have a mom offering her help and they have no idea what to do with me. The PTA is a little bit different and has pulled me in, etc., but I definitely don't feel welcome in the classroom.

Today I'm ready to pull her out ... again. I eat lunch there every day - the children ask me for napkins, ketchup, straws ... but if they didn't get them on the way in they aren't allowed to get these. Even I have a hard time keeping up with all of the rules - how to walk, where to walk, when you can stand up, when you can't. Today because of the rain, I brought my daughter's lunch in a large bag from "Panera". The lunch wasn't from Panera, just the bag. After a lot of other things happened that I'm too frazzled to mention, her teacher came up to me and said I couldn't bring in food from fast food chains (??). Everyone who had actually been in the cafeteria during lunch had seen the contents came from home. I said "I didn't, I just brought the bag" and asked her only half jokingly not to give me a "ticket". I have a good relationship with the teacher, but I can't ask my daughter to follow all of these rules if even I can't follow them.

So is all of this normal for Lexington schools and/or public schools in general or is it just that this school is sort of in a bad neighborhood so it's weird? What, really, is the difference between one of the good schools and one of the not-good schools? Is it just the kids they are exposed to, or atmosphere, or lack of parent involvement, or is it the actual teachers and other faculty? What would be your threshold for making a move?

thanks everyone ...
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Old 10-16-2007, 12:10 PM
 
688 posts, read 2,768,244 times
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Wow - that's a frustrating experience!

To put it in a nutshell - no, that doesn't sound typical for most elementary schools, whether in Fayette County or elsewhere. I think I know the school that you're talking about. Unfortunately, in Fayette County there are great schools and there are not-so-good schools. In my experiences as an educator, schools in lower socio-economic areas (more kids on free/reduced lunch, etc) naturally tend to struggle more than others. They often suffer from high staff turnover, lower parent participation, greater outside factors (students without proper health care, school supplies, breakfast, enough sleep, etc). It is simply harder teaching students under those circumstances, especially with the pressure to excel on standardized tests. Even the best financial and community support don't negate the influence of those factors. Add in an environment where parents can't or don't participate, students are stressed, and staff are pressured or burnt out, and you have a recipe for problems.

In most of my experiences, the "climate" of the school often rests on the principal's shoulders. Whether a school seems open, strict, inviting, stressful, etc usually comes from the principal and his/her rules, policies, and interactions with staff and families. Many schools in lower SES areas have taken a stricter approach with dress codes, regulations, etc, with some varied results. Remember that movie Lean On Me from a while ago? If a majority of the student body are not getting the reinforcement that they need at home, for whatever reason, then the school has a bigger burden and will often resort to more rules, regulations, and strict policies to try to add control. When it's done incorrectly, though, you find students that are intimidated and uncomfortable, teachers that are burnt out and feel unable to make a difference, and parents that are not comfortable being in the environment, much like you described.

My advice would be to continue trying to get involved. Perhaps the classroom teacher is young and inexperienced, or insecure in his/her position? I would talk to the teacher directly and say, "I really want to help you out in the classroom during the week - I know how busy you must get. Here are some things I was thinking I could do if it would help..." and make specific suggestions, like:
- become a guest reader once a week
- help out first thing in the morning to gather homework, parent folders, lunch money, direct students to morning work, etc
- come in during specials/planning time to make copies, straighten the room, organize handouts, etc
- come in just before dismissal to help distribute paperwork, organize backpacks, straighten the room, read to students waiting for their bus, etc
- tutor or work with students one-on-one during center time, following that day's lesson plans/worksheets

or whatever else you can think of.

Also, I would meet with the principal directly and mention some of your specific concerns re: the school climate and setting. If it helps, try to gather a group of like-minded parents to come up with a list of concerns and/or suggestions that you can present as a group. Finally, each school should have an SBDM council (school-based decision making) that has to include parent reps and usually will have open meetings to anyone who would like to attend. Try to get involved with this and provide your input on school policies, curriculum, events, etc. It is much more directly involved than the PTA (not that I am downplaying the important roles that the PTA serves).

And, if you still aren't comfortable and don't see a change in sight, then I would seriously consider moving your daughter to a new school. Whether you apply for a transer, try to get into your neighborhood school, or move - it sounds like a step you might have to consider. FWIW, many private preschools offer accredited kindergarten programs at reasonable costs, which might be an option if you want a solution for this year. And there are many wonderful public elementary programs in Fayette.

As a single family/parent, your options for change are somewhat limited. If your child at least feels comfortable and confident in her classroom, regardless of the rest of the school setting, then you can probably make it work out well with a little work on your part. But if she is feeling stressed, uncomfortable, and upset and your interventions aren't getting anywhere, then it is probably more than you can fix alone. The first few years of school experiences are some of the most important - they will set the tone for the remainder of her school experiences. If she starts associating school with negative experiences at this young age, then she might struggle with school much more in the future.

Hope you can get things worked out - keep us updated. And by the way, feel free to stop by MY classroom to volunteer anytime - we can always use another set of helping hands!
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Old 10-16-2007, 01:22 PM
 
1,727 posts, read 1,440,837 times
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Great post, thank you! Can I ask where you teach?
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Old 10-16-2007, 07:11 PM
 
Location: Beautiful Kentucky
820 posts, read 2,585,373 times
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mom - I agree with the other poster. Although it's been several years, I had experience speaking in a variety of elementary schools here in Lexington. I also had two children who went through a wonderful elementary school.

I'm not sure of what school you're speaking of, but the fact they won't allow you or utilize your willingness to volunteer is beyond me. My kid's school always logged some of the hightest volunteer hours in the county. From what I observed in a couple of other schools, I would have assumed they'd be drooling to get more help in there. So, that dumbfounds me.

Having the kindergarten segregated was never our experience. Now, of course, they're not in combined class rooms, etc., but they're in the lunchroom, going down the halls, etc. along with the older kids.

Again, I think you've already received some wonderful suggestions for offering your assistance. If you're not well received with any of those.... I'd definately speak with the principal.

Sorry you're having such a difficult experience. Lexington has some terrific schools at all levels.
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Old 10-17-2007, 04:49 AM
 
Location: Lexington Ky
891 posts, read 2,752,276 times
Reputation: 514
It might also be worth your time to call the school that was too full and see if any spots have opened up. I know at our elementary school there have been several families that moved. You never know unless you check. It sounds like a nightmare. You might also contact your school board representative and see if they have any suggestions.
Good luck.
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:30 AM
 
1,727 posts, read 1,440,837 times
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Thanks everyone. These are great suggestions. I did find a spot for her in one of the Montessori schools - I tour on Monday. Of course when I picked her up yesterday she was all smiles and had a "great day" ??? After everything that happened, I guess the teachers were extra nice to her after I left.

The part that I was too upset to mention yesterday ... when my daughter arrived in the cafeteria (yesterday) she was sobbing inconsolably. I tried to comfort her and then I said "Let's go in the bathroom and you can tell me what is wrong". I told everyone in sight that I was taking her to the bathroom. Everyone knew I was there; I left my things including my large "Panera" bag at our spot. [I signaled to one of the teacher monitors that I was taking her to the bathroom, etc.]. In the bathroom my daughter just said that her teacher had told her she was doing something wrong, something academic, and I let her know that it was OK to make mistakes, that I was the queen of making mistakes, etc.

So when we were leaving the bathroom, both of her teachers and the school guidance counselor were standing outside the door in the hallway. Her teacher said "you can't really take them out of the cafeteria, it's against school policy". I just shrugged my shoulders and kept walking. Again, everyone knew I was there, that she was with me, and I had told everyone I could see that I was taking her in the bathroom. Plus, my concern was really about my daughter.

Then about 15 minutes later her teacher came over and asked me if she was OK. (I said "no" and explained why she was upset). That's when she made the comment about my "Panera" bag that sent me over the edge.

Um, I am the Room Parent here, the Daisy Troop leader, I volunteer at every PTA function, etc. Why pick away at me? [I talked to the teacher later about something else and she was just "over the top" nice to me]. I also want to make clear that I wasn't upset at the teacher for making my daughter cry - it was clear that my daughter was just being too sensitive.

Our home is in the Garden Springs district. However, when I put my address in one of the search functions on the district website, it said that our cluster includes Rosa Parks and Stonewall (and the school she is attending and Cardinal Valley). I would never get into Rosa Parks, but I am very interested in Stonewall so I might also check with the school board, etc. and just see what the options might be ... Or I might just go with the Montessori plan. I definitely didn't intend to look into private schools, but I'll do whatever is best for her.

Again, thank you thank you - wonderful suggestions - sorry for the venting but I appreciate your reactions and suggestions.
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Old 10-17-2007, 06:28 PM
 
Location: Beautiful Kentucky
820 posts, read 2,585,373 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by goldenmom7500 View Post

Our home is in the Garden Springs district. However, when I put my address in one of the search functions on the district website, it said that our cluster includes Rosa Parks and Stonewall (and the school she is attending and Cardinal Valley). I would never get into Rosa Parks, but I am very interested in Stonewall so I might also check with the school board, etc. and just see what the options might be ... Or I might just go with the Montessori plan. I definitely didn't intend to look into private schools, but I'll do whatever is best for her.

Again, thank you thank you - wonderful suggestions - sorry for the venting but I appreciate your reactions and suggestions.
Mom, I'm assuming your school is Garden Springs or James Lane Allen? I'm rather surprised by the atmosphere you discuss. I know the principal at James Lane Allen and that would really shock me to hear it was the school your daughter is at. He's a loving and very personable man. If it's the school, I would strongly suggest speaking with him.

However, both of my children went through their entire elementary years at Stonewall. We use to joke that Stonewall was like a virtual reality school - it was hard to believe that there was such a place. I don't believe that the environment has changed there since my kids attended. The neighborhoods that feed into Stonewall are very unchanged as it's fairly well established. Stonewall is not a very diverse school which might be a concern - I truly believe our children learn from those that are different from us. I will even suggest a wonderful teacher (assuming she does K and she might only be doing 1st now) - Becky Horine. Wonderful and loving person that I can't imagine any child or parent not being crazy about. In two children's six years there, I can only remember one teacher that we did not think was a marvelous asset to their lives.

Good luck to you and your daughter!
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:10 PM
 
1,727 posts, read 1,440,837 times
Reputation: 388
Hi,

Yes, it's JLA. We live in Firebrook which is in the Garden Springs district. The principal seems very nice, is well liked, etc. I had to re-read my posts to make sure everything was factually correct and not over-dramatic and ... it was all accurate, just as it happened.

It's funny because the teacher said the fast food issue had to do with the non-competition with school lunches - but I looked up the law and that doesn't seem to be true. Schools themselves aren't allowed to sell foods in competition (like fundraisers, etc.). The fast food issue apparently has to do with health guidelines. In any case, I don't quibble with the policy - just with the facts since it was just an issue of a bag - and with the overall sense of priorities. (Today I was told that 4-5 more teachers had talked to my daughter's teacher about the Panera bag; and I was told I couldn't get a little girl a mayonnaise packet and that another girl couldn't move to sit next to my daughter after she had already set down. I give up.). I just checked a site that has been recommended here - schooldigger.com, I think, and JLA is 532 out of about 670 elementary schools in Kentucky. Wow, on greatschools.net it is much better at 5/10. I would never characterize it as being that poor - honestly, I woke up yesterday morning feeling good about things.

Thanks for the info about Stonewall. I don't know why the school didn't come on my radar until recently. (I met a mom at my daughter's gymnastics whose children go there and a light went off).

thanks everyone ...
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Old 10-17-2007, 07:29 PM
 
Location: Beautiful Kentucky
820 posts, read 2,585,373 times
Reputation: 556
Mom - I would encourage you to have a conversation with GW. He is truly one of the finest men you can meet. He coached my son for years in baseball which he had to give up when he became principal there. I think you'd at least feel better and probably more comfortable about your move if you discuss things with him. I'm sure he wouldn't make you feel uncomfortable about choosing another school, but would welcome the opportunity for dialogue.

Again, best wishes and if there's anything I can do for you, please PM.
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Old 10-19-2007, 08:11 PM
 
282 posts, read 933,499 times
Reputation: 95
Goldenmom,

I am the one who "guessed" Lane Allen in a post a couple of weeks ago. I'm sorry you're going through this. Hats off to you for the attentiveness you have given thus far.

I'm sorry for what you've had to deal with to date. The only advice I have is to keep sticking your nose directly into everything to make sure you know what is going on with your kids. But at this point I don't have to tell you that. If we had moved into Firebook (and it was close) I would be your partner right now.

Angie
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