This past Friday morning as part of our school’s kindergarten tour, Susan, our school’s fabulous parent spokesperson/P.R. representative, walked to the podium and spoke so lovingly, as always, about her experience at our school, but for the first time I have seen, she did so without getting obviously choked-up. Next, our resource coordinator, Aniko, presented a slide-show about our school’s extra-curricular and academic support programs. It was fun to see my kids and all the kids I knew up on the screen enjoying their school day. Fortunately, I arrived early enough before the program started, that I had the opportunity to schmooze with some interested parents, over coffee and pastries (is it true that we are the only school that serves refreshments at their tour?).

What a treat to meet these eager parents and some of their kids that came with them. Some of the parents/families I met live just beyond the Carthay Center Elementary school boundaries and are looking to permit in, while others I met lived across the street or a couple of blocks away. Still another couple said they work at nearby hospitals which would make it convenient for drop-off and pick-up. One mother admitted that she had gone to Carthay as a child and had recently moved back into the area. I even got to meet one of my blog readers from the neighborhood. (Nice to meet you!!)

Our school has a lot to brag about, but I also was honest with parents when they asked – is there anything that could be improved? Sure, we could have a little more money and a few more involved parents.  We may never be the kind of school that has high-end gala events with silent auctions, but parents and teachers are already striving to make this a better school and in the age of budget cuts more involvement and more money could certainly help us reach our goals.

I tried to see the school afresh through their eyes this morning and to me, it looked great: Susan and Aniko’s enthusiasm, the auditorium that has such classic character, the garden with its new pergola and lusciously filled garden boxes, a couple of happy free-range chickens, and the cheerful kindergarten playground, filled with happy free-range kindergarteners (maybe the chickens are more free-range than the kinder-kids, but both groups are obviously happy!). In the back upper-grade playground workers were busy ripping out the old play structures, evidence that the plan to renovate our outdoor space is actually starting and will be a reality, not just a dream.

I walked through several classrooms with the tour including my younger daughter’s former kindergarten classroom, where she started out at the beginning of the year.  My daughter was moved up to first grade in December after a couple of months of transition approved by our principal and facilitated collaboratively by her kindergarten teacher and her now first grade teacher. It was the the right decision for our child and the transition was done so well, that I was the only one who was emotionally effected by the move (my baby is growing up so fast!). My friends with kids at other more well-funded schools were surprised how easy the school made it for us to address our child’s educational needs. “You would have to fight for that at our school,” said one.  I also know of a second grader who was moved up a grade this year and a second grader who was moved back to first.  In addition, the school has pull-out groups for advanced reading and for reading assistance and an after-school homework club (but, we could always use more parents or neighbors to help with this!).  To me, this reflects on the attentiveness of our school’s administration, the flexibility of our teachers, and the community feel of the school.  Hopefully this also means that the teachers and administrators are not letting kids slide by or slip through the cracks at our school.   Besides it being a safe fun place to go to school everyday, it seems to me that the kids’ academic needs are being met.

Our school feels like a family – a little intimate community, where everyone knows your name (“Like Cheers, without the booze” Susan called it last week at the tour). No, we don’t have an orchestra or a yoga space in a fancy gym, but we do have a place where kids can come and feel at home. It is good to always be striving for more, raising more money, opening up opportunities for our children, and gaining more respect and support from the surrounding community, but it is also good to stop and appreciate what we already have. And we have so much.

So, dear neighborhood parents, stop your stressing about where your child is going to go to kindergarten! It causes wrinkles and grey hair and surely doesn’t help your kids, who would totally do great at our school. The extra money you save on gas driving your kid can either go into your pocket or be donated to the PTA, which we could use towards our programs. More importantly, the extra time you save on driving your kid across town or struggling to get them up early enough to catch the bus, could be used for you to slow down and breath or help out in the classroom or in the garden. You and your growing kids could sleep in an extra half hour or more and who wouldn’t love that? You know I sure do!