During this past Spring, I was sent an email from the Rolla School District’s Superintendent’s office. My email address was included in a longish list, and I was asked to consider participating in a review of the school district’s CSIP. Comprehensive School Improvement Plan is a way for a school district to go over goals that the district wants to improve upon and/or to implement. How I got on this list, I don’t have any idea and a CSIP? I had to actually google what that meant. I got my teaching degree in the dark ages of 1987 and haven’t been in a classroom since the spring of 1991 when motherhood called me away, so this terminology was new to me. I was curious about the topics that this CSIP would cover so away I went to the meeting.
As soon as I entered the district’s building, I was ushered to the room where the school board holds its meetings. I was one of 7 ladies, and we simply went around the room, giving our opinions on the different items that were part of the district’s CSIP. Two gentleman from the KC area presented the CSIP to us, and they marked down our comments. They explained that they worked for a company that traveled all over the state of Missouri, conducting discussions and gathering data for school districts and their specific CSIPs. This meeting took about an hour and when all was said and done, I was glad that I gave my input. After all, how many moms who have homeschooled their children for preschool and grades K-7th for part of their educations were on these CSIP opinion-seeking missions?
Fast forward to July 3rd and I received another email from the Superintendent’s office. This new message thanked me for participating in the CSIP . The email went on to inform me that several times now, throughout the Rolla School District and community, a process has been presented to bring Early Childhood programming into the district. It’s not up and running for this coming school year, but the district would like to have a community-wide approved issue on the April 2015 ballot. Hopefully, by the beginning of the 2017 school year, Early Childhood will be offered. The email included some video clips for me to view pertaining to community input about Early Childhood Education that has been discussed and planned for since 2007. An online survey was also included for me to give my opinions.
There are two plans being looked at to bring this about. 1. Build a new building that will house all of the Early Childhood Education classes, from 4 year olds to kindergarten. 2. Turn one of the existing elementary schools into the Early Childhood building. Then the other two elementary schools will house grades 1-3. The 4th graders will be moved to Rolla Middle School, and will be there with the 5th and 6th graders. The 7th graders will be moved to Rolla Junior High to join the 8th graders. The 9th graders will then move to Rolla High. Both of these plans will cost money and will involve voters input.
While I appreciate the effort to look at Early Childhood Education, the fact remains that it is not a mandatory part of education for a child. One can design and build a fabulous building but that doesn’t mean that all of the families in the Rolla School District with preschool children will sign them up. I looked into preschool classes for our oldest child when we lived in St. Louis County, and paying $80-$90 a month was an outrageous fee for our family’s budget. I therefore did preschool activities on my own with our child, and also with his siblings, when they were in that preschool age. You can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, is a saying that comes to mind when I read about an entity, here a school district, attempting to get involved in spending a lot of money for something that may not be as successful as they imagine it will be.
I happened to watch the school board candidates on the local cable access channel when they were running for reelection. One of the incumbent’s mentioned this new program and that in pursuing it, children who get to experience preschool turn out better than those who don’t. I would like to remind this gentleman that my kids, who never stepped foot into a preschool, have all done very well in the Rolla district, and the oldest three are now pursuing higher education at various colleges. To insinuate that children who don’t go to preschool are doomed, I find that reasoning faulty.
I admit, I am looking at this issue through my homeschooling lenses. I think one of the reasons homeschooling works is the low student to teacher ratio. A teacher with only 10-15 students in a class can probably get a lot more teaching of a new concept done than a teacher with 25-30 students. I propose, that instead of focusing on Early Childhood Education that the Rolla School District make a bolder move. Add more classrooms at the elementary schools and the middle school. Add more teachers to grades K-7 and lower the student to teacher ratios in these grades. I would expect that the district would see an increase of students in those grades achieving more in content and understanding of important concepts in core subjects. Those students would have a better ability to begin navigating their way through Junior High, High School, career paths, and then on to Higher Education, if that is the student’s goal. I would much rather have my tax dollars go to supporting a plan like that, where the majority of school-aged children in the district will be attending these schools, than putting my tax money into a new Early Childhood Education plan that cannot possibly cause all of the preschoolers of Rolla, MO to attend.