Problems at charter school not a new thing |

Problems at charter school not a new thing

I want to thank Mrs. Clark for her Other Voices column in the Feb. 19 edition of The Union, titled “Treatment of Vantage Point Charter absolutely appalling.” Her letter has prompted me to do something I should have done long ago, which is to thank the past and present staff of Ready Springs School for giving my son, Daniel, a great start in his education. A start so fine that he is not only enjoying his first year at Nevada Union High School, but he is doing well academically.

Daniel attended Ready Springs from kindergarten through the eighth grade, and his success has definitely been a team effort – Daniel, our family, friends, the PPPIP school, Tall Pines, Champion Mine, and Ready Springs. He has an autistic disorder called PDDNOS, and has been mainstreamed for most of his school career, due to a lot of hard work from all members of the team. Sure, there have been glitches – you won’t find a school or family without them – but on the whole it has been a very satisfying experience.

Our daughter, Elizabeth, a fifth-grader, continues to attend Ready Springs. And, when she was 4, she attended the Ready Springs Charter School’s prekindergarten one day a week. The charter school was managed and directed by Tessa McGarr, as it is today, but now under a different name, Vantage Point Charter School. We were happy with her school experience, had no complaints about the staff – including Ms. McGarr – or the curriculum, and Elizabeth really enjoyed going to school like her big brother.

Shortly after my daughter had enrolled in the Ready Springs regular school kindergarten program, I found out that problems had been found with the way attendance was being counted at the charter school. I found out that Ms. McGarr’s records indicated that my daughter had started going to the charter school prekindergarten before she actually had. When I brought this to her attention, she wrote that I must have misunderstood, and highlighted a section in my daughter’s folder where the teacher had written “student to continue with what she was doing at home with Mom,” intimating that the charter school had given assignments to my daughter at an earlier date than when she actually started attending.

I wrote back to Ms. McGarr, explaining that I could see how she could try to misconstrue that, and that I wanted to clearly state that what the teacher was referring to was the work I had been practicing with my daughter at home since she was 3. She learned to read by age 3, and I continued to build on that. I also mentioned that I had the calendar with the starting date that my daughter actually began their program, and I mentioned that date.

I write all of this to try to point out that the problem of counting attendance is not new for the charter school. The board of that time received a letter from California Superintendent of Schools Delaine Eastin telling them that the charter school needed to make some changes, and one of those things was counting attendance.

Keep in mind that the experience I related regarding my daughter’s charter school attendance happened with a different Ready Springs principal, superintendent and elected board. Most of the recent complaints happened before the current superintendent/principal, Merrill Grant, was here.

Through the years, there has been plenty of acrimony between Ready Springs and the charter school, and the one constant feature has been Ms. McGarr. The turnover of staff at the charter school has been huge over the years, and most have left with unpleasant feelings about how it was being managed.

I have at times defended the charter school’s right to exist, not always a popular position. I believe there is most definitely a place for alternative education. As Mrs. Clark pointed out, not everyone learns in the same way, and it is always good to have alternatives. But Mrs. Clark needs to know that it is not “the new guy on the block,” Mr. Grant, who has taken anything away from their children’s education opportunity. The warning signs have been there for several years, and have been ignored.

The school board represents both Ready Springs and the Vantage Point Charter School, and the reason they took the action that they did was to protect the interest of both Ready Springs and the charter school.

As to the Ready Springs Board not answering questions regarding their decision, continued problems with attendance reporting was the issue that the board had to address, and it is not proper or prudent for a board to discuss personnel issues or disciplinary actions in a public session. The board did, however, take the time to give ear to many concerned parents voicing positive statements in favor of Ms. McGarr.

I want to restate that my husband and I think that Ready Springs School has done a fine job educating our children. Mr. Grant inherited this situation, and we support the Board and Mr. Grant’s action in dealing with this County and the State Office of Education’s mandated action. Our only regret is that this has taken so long to come about.

Carolyn Steele is a resident of Rough and Ready.

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