The packet with our daughter’s class assignments came the week before the school year started. Also in the packet was a letter from our wonderful principal who, over the last four years, has led our great school and made it so much better. The letter announced that she was leaving the school and going to work with a major publishing company and their Common Core Standards curriculum . I had heard the rumor just a couple of days before, but to see her goodbye letter in writing was a real blow. All the work that we had done, all of the outreach and bragging about our school and about our principal – would it have been in vain? Would we still be able to become the magnet school that she helped us get approved? Of course you always have to be prepared for LAUSD to transfer great principals — where there are needy schools, there is a need for dynamic principals to work their magic and love. But, I just was in denial that her departure would be so soon. Clearly, her dynamism was helping launch her into the private sector. You can’t stop those kinds of people from moving up and sometimes out.
After shedding a few tears and rounds of emails, phone calls and texts between other parent-friends, we pulled up our big-girl socks and got to work. Our leader may be leaving, but we all were leaders ourselves and there was enough depth to the optimism and potential for more positive change that we didn’t have time to sulk. The new school year was about to start and we had to continue to sparkle. In the age of school choice and prolific charters, a school without sparkle can get left behind. In the past, some of my daughter’s classmates disappeared mysteriously as if they were plucked by aliens when the charter schools started a couple of weeks later.
Two days after the principal’s letter arrived, on the Sunday before school started, the other PTA Vice President and I (yes, I let myself be nominated & elected) put on a picnic on campus welcoming the new students. We had the school send out the flyer to newly enrolled kids and I posted the flyer on our facebook page, but we had no idea if anyone would show up. The school had never had an end of summer picnic and we just didn’t know what the response would be.
So, just in case people did come, we got 40 hamburgers, 20 veggie burgers and hotdogs and some chips and drinks, for the other VP’s husband to grill (Thanks Brian!). We knew we could always save the extra food in the freezer for back to school night a couple weeks later. At 1:00 pm a couple of people started to show up. By 2:00 pm we had a couple of dozen people and by 4:00 pm, the end of the event, almost 90 parents and kids had come.
It was an amazing turn-out. More than we expected. One of the teachers I am very friendly with came because she thought we wouldn’t get a good turn-out and she wanted to support us involved parents, and she was pleasantly surprised to see the large turnout. Other teachers were also there and even our departing prinicipal came and schmoozed with the new parents.
Kids played together on the playground while parents got to know each other. My older daughter helped lead little tours of our garden, showed them the chicken coop and chickens and helped answer questions about garden science, the after-school STAR program, recess, etc. In-coming kindergarteners made friends and rode tricylcles in the kindergarten playground and got to see watermelons growing on vines in the garden. Hopefully any fears of starting at a new big school, without any friends, were melting away.
When my younger daughter and I were walking across campus taking another family to the garden, she squeezed my hand and whispered, ” I love this school!” and then, ” I can’t wait for school to start!”
Maybe that is what was expressed that day, the love, the community, the feeling of home that the children and families feel at our school. One couple admitted that they came to the picnic but were still trying to decide between 2 schools, only two days before class instruction was going to begin. This picnic was our sales pitch and it worked. When they left they told me this was going to be their school. They had found the community they were looking for, for their son and for themselves.
Welcome home new students!