, Gloucester, MA

November 29, 2012

Letter: Charter is ‘best school ever, Mom!’

Gloucester Daily Times

---- — To the editor,

I would like to share our experience as a family with the Gloucester Community Arts Charter School. This little community charter school, “the little engine that could” as we refer to in our home, means so much to Gary and I, but more importantly it means so much to our 9-year-old little girl, Nora.

Nora is the third of our four children, a spitfire from the beginning, always curious, always drawing and creating. Nora asked curious questions of us as soon as she could talk and wanted to know the answers. Nora was a late reader, not inclined to be engaged just for the sake of engagement but more so, she has always wanted to understand what the meaning of things really are, why are we learning this anyway?

Not one to sit around and do busy work, Nora was going to need a different kind of education. We chose to keep Nora home from school for her early years, home-schooling her and then when it was time for her to go to school we knew from our experience with the more traditional classroom setting that GCACS would be a perfect fit for her. It turned out to be so much more.

On Nora’s first day there we were nervous. How would she like it? Would she want to go back? At dismissal time, Nora jumped in to the car, backpack in hand big smile on her face proclaiming “I have the best school ever, Mom!” And she did.

Since our journey began at GCACS in the fall of 2011, Nora has learned so much! She has built on her reading and writing skills, been engaged in civics lessons, drama, science projects and adores math (this from a child who hated math and from family who kind of hate math, too). She has developed public speaking abilities and has become a confident learner. She is consistently praised for what some may consider her quirky side, her inquisitive nature. She has been immersed in art, her great passion, and what a tremendous gift that has been for her. We have watched a reluctant kid who hated the thought of school blossom into a life-long learner. We owe the teachers and administrators, the board and the parents of GCACS this great blessing. Through constant surveillance and scrutiny, this little school has endured, kept its eyes on the prize and focused on what is really important; our children.

Most recently Nora has begun to struggle in some of her academics. I was able to walk in unannounced, was welcomed by the special education director, Manny DeCruz, for a sit down chat and within 24 hours had begun the process of not only getting some testing done but also having a sit-down discussion with the principal and with Nora’s teacher. She has had no issues since these meetings and continues to thrive. In my discussions with one of her teachers the other day Nora was cited as a child with special skills in emotional and social intelligence. This kind of strength-based education is what has made all of the difference for our daughter.

Having this choice in Gloucester is so important; having a little competition in town is a very good thing for the community as a whole. I am hopeful that the politicking can end soon and that this school will have the time and space to continue to grow and to serve many more children on the North Shore.

Kelli Backstrom