Offended, writer comes to school’s defense with letter

I am writing in response to the recent Star News article regarding school boundaries. I write as a mother to three children in the Elk River school district and as a third generation former elementary teacher of nearly 15 years. My family has lived in Elk River for 10 years, and we reside within the boundaries of Twin Lakes Elementary.
I would like to speak to some of the comments from our School Board members regarding a discussion of moving some children from Twin Lakes to Lincoln Elementary. Namely, Sue Farber was quoted as saying: “How can you take kids from a high-performing school and put them in arguably the lowest performing school? That’s the only problem I’m having with this.”
Ms. Farber, I want to believe that your comment was based on the thinking, “How does increasing a school’s class size help to improve its performance?” It doesn’t. It will not. Increased class sizes do nothing of the sort, and I’m sure you know that.
But, I’m afraid your comment sounds as though your thinking is based on the notion that the quality of a school, and the teachers within, rest upon test scores alone. And that transferring children from a school of higher test scores would be detrimental to those children’s learning and well-being. I can assure you, it would not. Because, you see, our school-age children attend Lincoln Elementary. And this is obviously by choice, as it lies outside of our designated neighborhood school boundary.
We have chosen Lincoln because of what happens within its walls. I’m sure you (School Board members) have made it a priority to visit Lincoln and all of our great schools within the district. Surely you’ve noticed that the community and culture of Lincoln, established by the staff, is warm and vibrant. You’ve probably witnessed the many services and goings-on that happen throughout the day for the children: Title 1, Reading Corps, the Responsive Classroom model, push-in special ed services, Power Hour, Watch DOGS, specialized projects, data collection and analysis to plan for classroom differentiation… just to name a few. I’m sure you’ve also made note of the expertise of the staff. It’s hard not to notice that many hold master’s degrees and additional certifications or licenses such as reading specialties. They are outstanding professionals and we are very thankful for them every single day. Our children are challenged, their joy for learning is sparked and flamed, and they simply love school.
You probably are also very mindful of the fact that Lincoln’s demographics are unique to other elementary schools in the district. We are so grateful that Lincoln’s teachers teach to the children and not to the test. Because you see, that means that some of our children’s friends don’t have to go to school worried about meeting a benchmark – when their greater worry is if they’re going to have dinner after school, if their dad found a job, or where they might be sleeping tonight. As a citizen in love with her community, I care far more about our schools meeting the all-encompassing needs of children, rather than a “performance” level. And as the parent of an accelerated learner, I care far more about the way my child relates to others, than I do about his test scores.
It is not deniable that Lincoln’s test scores are not what we want them to be. But I rest assured knowing that the entire staff works diligently to hold the children to high standards, all while differentiating their instruction based on the needs, gifts and challenges of each student. They focus on the “total” young people they influence each and every day.
It is my understanding that Lincoln Elementary is the oldest building in the district and updates to the building and materials have not happened for quite some time. Lincoln families are very proud of what happens within our school and the Parent Advisory Council has worked hard to provide the school with materials that the district would not.
I have re-read the Star News article a number of times. I appreciate Mr. Steinbrecher’s attempt to re-steer the conversation about Lincoln’s “under performance.” I am choosing to give gracious assumption that other members of the board are not as divisive as I have interpreted their comments to be. I’m sure that others in our community would stand in expectation with me that our School Board demonstrates pride for all of our schools and all of our teachers. Right now I’m left with the question of, “In what, exactly, do the values of our School Board members lie?” — Katie Vick, Elk River