We all hope for a world where our children are thriving, well educated and supported by their community. When people do not respect the right of parents to choose the best educational setting for their child this cannot happen.
By Sharon Sagar | Marin IJ
In the past several years, there has been a lot of divisiveness about educating our Ross Valley children. A small group of individuals has driven this effort, and recruited people in the name of protecting our public schools. However, instead of building up the Ross Valley School District, they try to take away a free public school choice from families that want it.
This same small group has now upped the ante by coming to parent tours to intimidate parents who are looking at their options. They hand out fliers, filled with misinformation, to discourage prospective parents as they walk onto the school campus. They park cars, on the pathway to school or in the school parking lot, covered with signs telling people not to choose the school.
These are all intimidation tactics to cause harm, and not the actions of those who are trying to support public school children and an inclusive community. Especially regrettable is that these tactics are witnessed by children who are simply attending the school their parents chose for them. No care is taken to protect children by keeping the conversation solely among adults.
I ask all who continue to support our public schools to take down the Stand signs, which children must see and walk by each day. There are healthier, and less divisive adult-only forums to communicate your opinions. We need to move on, back to a community which recognizes that some families and children may choose something different. We can have a mix of excellent public school options.
Not all families have the means to choose a private school if they want or need something different for their child. There are currently 162 children being served by Ross Valley Charter; these families, based upon the unique needs of their children, made a choice to find the “right fit” for their child.
We serve a much larger percentage of free- and reduced-lunch-qualified students and English language learner families than the district, proof that we are meeting the needs of families who wanted and needed other options but who might not be able to afford the cost of private education. We have a wonderfully diverse school in the Ross Valley.
Facilities are the main challenge. We would love to have our own campus but there is currently no site available. Our local students should have classrooms and support spaces like all other public students. We do not ask for extra space for out-of-district students. We did not choose to be placed at White Hill; this was the decision of the district alone. We preferred the closed Red Hill campus, but accepted the only space offered. The middle school enrollment dropped quite a bit this year and is projected to drop more — with smaller classes moving up, reducing the impact of a shared campus.
Our school grew from a program developed by parents and teachers here in Ross Valley (formerly the Multi-Age Program), and has served students in our community for more than 22 years. Our eight classroom teachers have collectively taught public school students for more than 150 years (mostly here in Ross Valley). I have lived here for 35 years and support this community in many ways. We are not a group of outsiders imposing something here — we are community members who want to continue this educational choice for our children.
We are your friends and neighbors. We can exist side by side, and we can support and help each other no matter which schools our children attend. We need to make a conscious effort to come together again and work at reconciliation.
I hope for this community to heal — we all deserve better, but our children deserve it most of all.
Sharon Sagar is founder and board chair of the Ross Valley Charter School.
She was a trustee on the Ross Valley School District board for 14 years.