Over this past summer my son and I were home on a Friday afternoon trying to stay to cool from the blazing heat, when my son comes into my room and says, “Mommy my principal and my librarian are knocking on the front door.” My first thought, this kid wants attention and is making up silly excuses for me to come hang out with him in the living room, but my responsible mom reaction was, “let me get some decent clothes on and see what is going on.” I opened the door and they were, with blushed cheeks and sweat on their forehead, Mr. Libby, my son’s principal and Ms. Wong, the school Librarian. I must have had a startled look on my face because there was a awkward moment while I processed my confused thoughts. They both said hi to my son as he looked at them with a puzzled look too.
My son had been out of school for close to two months at this time, and I was clueless as to why they popped up. (Luckily it was not due to an overdue library book; that would have been insane.) I invited them in and offered some water. I thought this was the courteous thing to do. They didn’t have flyers of any sort nor were they fundraising or selling anything. I was anxious to hear the motive for the unannounced visit.
Mr. Libby started the conversation by saying they were aware I had not re-enrolled my little guy for the upcoming year, and they wanted to talk to me about my thoughts and or hesitation to complete the re-enrollment forms. They were also aware that I had recently told the office assistant I was unsure if my son would be going back for 1st grade, as I had been looking for other school options.
I confirmed the information was accurate. Due to my uneasy feelings about his kindergarten experience, I was looking at other school options for 1st grade. I explained the main issue I had was with the lack of communication on academic improvement and progress.
I also expressed that I had been interested in KIPP LA schools since my son was in preschool because the organizational culture to help all students succeed is something that attracts me. I recently researched KIPP Raices in the California Dashboard website and according to information found, the enrollment is over 500 students for an elementary school with grades K-4th, where Latino students are excelling in state standards at grade level. My assigned neighborhood school has enrollment of a little over 400 students and is a K-6th grade school, however, the Latino students are not on par with the Asian students as you can see in California Dashboard website. I made the principal aware that I knew these numbers, which did not sit well with me due to our overall kinder experience.
I explained my son began kinder behind grade level according to his teacher, yet I did not find this out until our parent conference which was close to three months after school year. I realize that I should have engaged in conversation and asked early on, but I didn’t see any struggles when he did his homework. And the last time I had a child in kinder was over 15 years ago so all these standards were new to me, and I was unaware of many of the expectations. I did what I thought was right; check his school work he brought home on a weekly basis, and it all had stars and good notes. I explained to them that we did our reading daily and worked on homework together so hearing he was behind was alarming and shocking. After the initial meeting with his teacher, I was constantly checking in with notes, questions when I picked him up, and reached out to the teacher periodically until the very last parent conference when he ended the year at grade level.
As they both heard me out, I could see that they were thinking of their response. Mr. Libby thanked me for the feedback and validated my concerns by saying that I did all the right things. He agreed that communication among a parent and teacher when a student is struggling should be happening almost immediately. This allows for the parent and teacher to get to know each other and set up a plan that will best work for the student.
I also remember him saying that kinder was an adjustment time for many students as this could be the first time students are in an all day academic program and for others the shift from nap time to no nap, and not to mention the change in rules implemented overall. Although common core standards were used when evaluating kindergarteners, he personally thought it was more of a time to set a foundation for students. This meant structured study/homework time, monitored TV/electronic time, reading time, learning how to communicate with words and not tears, and academic enrichment time that includes learning about subjects of the child’s interests, whether it is science, cooking, art, or any subject where learning and thinking are involved. While kindergarteners were being evaluated, there was still time to help them catch up and even be above grade level with strategic parent/teacher collaboration efforts. He said this was not a time to panic.
We went on to talk about first grade expectations, which included the 100 sight word recognition, reading comprehension, double digit addition and subtraction, paragraph writing, and time investment on early coding phases since it is a computer science immersion school. He assured me he would be checking on us to make sure the communication bridge was strong from the start in order to help my son succeed.
Our conversation was meaningful, he knew his staff and knew who would be teaching 1st grade, and he shared a little about the teacher’s background. He appears to know the what students need to succeed; the school has been recognized as a California Distinguished School 2006 and 2012, and Title I Academic Achieving school in 2003 and a “Title I Academic Achievement Award School 2007.
In my opinion, Mr. Libby’s visit made a difference. Before the visit, I knew he was a very involved principal, I noticed he was always present when I would come to the office and the head of all school events. I also noticed that he was always talking to a teacher, parent or student. But having a principal go out to do home visits to discuss re-enrolment doubts on a hot summer day, showed me he is a principal who takes pride in student retention and is confident of what he and his team have built and continue to improve.
I had never heard of such thing happening in my entire life, and a for a few minutes after he left, I laughed about it. And to this day I don’t know if this is something commonly practiced nowadays, but I know that I was caught by surprise! And it made a difference once we got to talking. His enthusiasm for student success seemed genuine so much so that in steered away most of my doubts about the school for time being.
Thank you Mr. Libby and Ms. Wong.
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