School officials met parents and residents last night in Turnbull Learning Academy's library for another round of talks about how to better the performance of the school.
The study session last night was the third one this year- the last two sessions were heated and left unresolved a number of issues about what changes the administration would implement, according to residents. The school has taken heat from the community for having the lowest SAT-9 test scores in the district, a high number of inexperienced teachers and high teacher turnover, and for their use of non-standard programs and teaching methods, such as multiple grades in the same classroom.
The administration came to this session prepared with a long list of the changes they promised to implement, including increased English language instruction, more professional development for teachers, and increased assistance in child tutoring from city social service agencies.
"We've worked very hard since August. We've reviewed all your questions since the last study session. We've looked at a lot of data. We think it's time to move forward. We've developed a plan of action," said Superintendent Rick Damelio at the start of the meeting.
But the district's plan of action was not specific enough for a number of the residents representing the Home Association of North Central San Mateo (HANCSM). The residents called for improved SAT-9 scores to the district average. They asked for a well-stocked library with a full time librarian. And they insisted immediate elimination of multi-grade classrooms .
"My family and I are concerned about the destroying of students through seven years of experiments. How can we measure the damage done when we continue experimenting?" said Rosie Velasco-Dodge, a member of HANCSM who has sent her children to another school in the district. "As a mother I know that a child responds well to consistency. There is no consistency in this school."
Valasco-Dodge and other members of HANCSM are calling for a return to "the basics."
"It's time for a radical return to the essentials," said Steven Henegar, another member of HANCSM.
Donna Wynne said she pulled her two nephews out of Turnbull because she felt like they were not getting an education-she recently discovered that her 5th grader still did not know his time tables and her 8th grader is not reading well. She said part of the problem was the teaching methodology, but she said she also found out that in one of her child's classrooms, the teacher was speaking Spanish.
"Turnbull Learning Academy is a neighborhood school. I think it should be for all students-not just the Spanish speaking and not just the minority," Wynne said.
But HANCSM members' criticisms of the school was not the perspective of the whole group. Many of the parents present defended the school and said that bilingual education is an asset to their children's development.
"I don't see what these people says-she's ready for middle school," said one parent with a 5th grader at Turnbull. "She gain two languages-two brains."
Another parent who lives outside Turnbull's boundaries chose to send her child to Turnbull. "I have been thrilled with my child's education, otherwise I would not have sent her here," she said. "I'm asking every member of the community to spend time in the classrooms. The teachers are dedicated, hardworking, and they teach well."
And some parents said the administration and teachers are not the only ones that should shape their children's education. "It is not only the responsibility of teachers, but the responsibility of everybody. If everybody works hard students will succeed," said another parent who's child went to Turnbull and is now an honor student at Borel Middle School.
The administration will review these comments. Depending on the push from the community, there may be another study session.