Dr. Zeruth's Presentation at the SCASD Board Meeting
Wonderland Charter School's charter renewal and request to evolve from a kindergarten through 3rd grade school to a kindergarten through 5th grade school was an action item on the State College Area School District's (SCASD) agenda on March 18th 2013. There had been some talk by the SCASD Board about not renewing Wonderland's charter and closing Wonderland. The parents whose children at Wonderland (as well as some former enrolled families) were visibly upset and appeared in significant numbers at the SCASD Board meeting to voice their support for Wonderland Charter School's charter renewal and the evolution to a kindergarten through 5th grade structure.
At the request of the SCASD Board, one parent out of the many present was selected to speak for all the parents and to put forth the views of those interested in supporting Wonderland Charter School's renewal and approval to 5th grade. Dr. Jill Zeruth, a parent of a then currently enrolled kindergardner was selected to speak on behalf of the parents. No person spoke out against Wonderland's charter renewal or approval to 5th grade. The text below are the comments made by Dr. Zeruth at the SCASD Board meeting on March 18th 2013:
My son is someone who tried SCASD and it just didnít work for him. He was enrolled in the Kindergarten of one of the elementary schools this year for 2 months and was going nowhere.
We repeatedly received emails from his teacher detailing how he was having a hard time listening, couldnít keep his hands to himself, & was rolling around on the floor while he should be paying attention.
Some of that was just him being a 5 year old boy, but rolling around on the floor, and not listening when a teacher was talking just didnít sound like him.
We went through weeks of apologizing to the teacher, punishing our son, having daily discussions with him, and reminding him before getting on the bus every morning to make smart choices at school. When we asked him what was wrong he told us he was bored.
Then, we had the parent teacher conference in late October at which the teacher handed us a sheet of flash cards to cut up and go over with our son so that he could practice identifying letters and making their sounds. My husband and I were stunned. He had been reading since he was 3 ½, but she didnít seem to know he could read. We both left there feeling like our sonís teacher didnít know him. Possibly a by-product of the class size, but the end result is the same.
Wonderland offers a class-size half that of what he was in at his previous elementary school with 2 full-time, certified classroom teachers. Anyone who has been an educator knows how priceless this is especially with a population of younger students. He is also able to flow in and out of small groups, as small as 1 person if necessary, so that he is working at a challenging, yet appropriate pace.
This 33-page book contains hundreds of objectives, broken down into areas of development, of which my son has met or is currently working on. It continually gets added to during the school year and it is what we receive at every parent-teacher conference. His teachers can speak to each and every line of it with clarity and specificity. They can tell us when he met the objectives, when they plan to have him meet the upcoming objectives, and why. They can summarize his strengths and weaknesses in each class in great detail. It is a testament to the individualized education that students receive at Wonderland Charter School.
We havenít had even 1 issue since we switched him to Wonderland. Every day when he came home from his previous elementary school I would ask him ďDid a teacher have to talk to you about your behavior todayĒ and that would begin a long discussion about how many times he had to be reminded to behave during the day & all the things he did for which he got in trouble. It was stressful and upsetting. We no longer have to ask him that question because the answer is always the same. He doesnít have to be talked to. Heís engaged, challenged, and learning. While he is the same person he is a completely different student.
He now comes home from kindergarten to tell us how he is learning about things like: Martin Luther King Jr., Harriet Tubman, & the underground railroad. He knew who the presidential candidates were in November and all about the voting process. He has worked on predictions, flotation devices, animal habitats, the rainforest, the solar system, and the water cycle, and while he has been reading for a couple years now, he can read better than we expected at this point.
Everyone in this room knows this is primarily a white-collar community with a significant population of highly educated individuals who put a great deal of emphasis and value on their childrenís academic careers. So to say that parents arenít considering SCASD as well as the rest of their educational options is patently false. The majority of kids in this district come from families who investigate all possibilities from cyberschool to traditional brick and mortar and everything in between before enrolling somewhere.
I have a Bachelors degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education, a Masterís degree in Elementary Education & a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology. I know something about education but infinitely more importantly I know my son. He is better off right where he is.
SCASD is a good district. The school our son went to has a beautiful building, with a wonderful playground, a principal who seemed to put a great deal of effort into the school, and plentiful resources, but it just didnít work for our son. Academically, it couldnít satisfy him at this point in his educational career.
Wonderland challenges him. He says itís hard. After receiving word about this meeting we asked him, without saying why: ďIf someone asked you what the difference was between your old school and Wonderland, what would you say?Ē He said, ďMy old school was a lot of fun, Wonderland is a lot harder. I didnít learn anything at my old school. Wonderland is better for me.Ē
I know a number of families who send their children to Wonderland, many of which are here tonight, and not one of those families has made a blind decision of where to send their child to school. While their reasons for attending Wonderland and mine may differ, the fundamental, common thread is the same Ė parents making an informed decision to do what is best for their child. I know a mother whose son is now a senior at SCH and she still raves about the education he received at Wonderland as a Kindergarten student.
As a body of parents who are part of this community we are simply asking you to continue to give us the choice in curriculums and in our childrenís education because it is a choice in which we are more than capable of making.
Thank you for your time.