By Marina Hinkle
October 31, 2008
While I appreciate the concerns expressed by Agnes Moran about the Tongass School of Arts and Sciences, perhaps a different approach to the problem should be considered. I am a parent of two wonderful young boys who attend this school. I am witness to the tireless efforts of the teachers, support staff and the principle. They are a dedicated group of professionals who strive to give our children an integrated set of life skills and academic knowledge.
First of all, parents do not willingly and knowingly send their children to "substandard" schools. I think the people in our community have common sense, are strong, dedicated, and understand the importance of perseverance better than most. No one is denying the need to make improvements to our school system. Do we improve by zero funding schools? Or, do we make this better by stepping in and helping. My son, Grant, attends 4th grade and often comes home enthusiastic about his day. He shares his knowledge and skills with his little brother, who currently attends Tongass Preschool. Grant's scores on the Gates MacGinite test were far above the national average. I credit this greatly to the efforts of his teachers, who encourage and foster his love for reading.
Let me also help explain the method of teaching TSAS embraces. Because children's brains develop differently, the teachers at TSAS work with children to ensure their comprehension and understanding of topics on their level. Some students take longer to comprehend certain subjects and fall behind. They are in groups to help them gain the knowledge they need at their speed. So, it is true that TSAS doesn't educate all students equally, because many children learn at a different pace. TSAS refuses to push these students along without being properly prepared. This school models the Waldorf school in that it integrates practical, artistic and intellectual teaching elements. TSAS instructors work with children to help them develop into freethinking, moral individuals. With our current school system and the brilliant idea of George W. Bush requiring "No child left behind" which, in effect, forces teachers to provide the same curriculum to all children regardless of their comprehension. Many children are pushed through, barely passing and unprepared for the future. I have spoken with teachers in Ketchikan as well as my sister-in-law, who teaches 8th grade math in California. Our educational system needs support, and that is quite abundantly clear. Our teachers need raises, our schools need new equipment and supplies and our children need to see their parents involved in the educational process.
Tongass School of Arts and Science has given the children in our community the gift of love for education and learning. They integrate the teaching of life skills such as kindness, compassion, honesty, flexibility, perseverance, responsibility and respect into their curriculum. TSAS has acknowledged the areas of concern and will continue to work diligently to rise to the occasion. My husband and I will continue to stand by this wonderful school, as we are first hand witnesses to the gifts they give back to our community. Knowledge is the foundation for the future and no one takes that more seriously than teachers and parents.
My approach to any problem or concern is to seek a solution that is fair and right. If you are concerned about your tax dollars at work, I encourage you to visit TSAS. See firsthand why so many parents choose it as an educational foundation for their children.
Besides, what else would we spend over a million dollars on? A new saw mill, or perhaps a new road.
Received October 30, 2008 - Published October 31, 2008
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