A heartfelt Thank You for the wonderful first 2 weeks of school. I have longed for an educational journey for my youngest daughter Haylee since enrolling her into Kindergarten. And thank goodness the opportunity has finally arrived. I am very excited to take this journey with Haylee and have no doubt it WILL be a wonderful year at Gillingham !!! Again, Thank you!
Antoinette Tobin ( Haylee Zartman’s Mom)
Morgan Kollars, 6th grader
“ There are smaller classes. The curriculum is really good. It’s different in that Gillingham is offering other sports and languages that you can learn. It’s not just math and reading every day. Gillingham is putting 5th and 6th graders together. I think that’s really cool. Gillingham is not using textbook. Textbooks don’t really give you much information. At Gillingham, we’ll get to read a bunch of books about something in history instead of 3 pages from a textbook. I love nature study. You get to go outside all year round. In the snow, we get to go out and play.
Suzanne is a mom of an autistic child. She recently moved to Schuylkill County from the Northwest. After hearing a bit about Gillingham during a short presentation, she knew that this education was for her family and daughter. Shortly after joining as a Founding Member, she proclaimed her support publicly through the local newspaper. Here is her letter to the editor:
March 5, 2010
A school with individualized learning, small class sizes and a rigorous curriculum that encourages deeper thinking skills is not “idealistic” as stated in a March 5 letter to the editor. The proposed Gillingham Charter School is not following a “new methodology”, but rather putting together research based best practices in education to give all students the chance to succeed at a high level. Unlike the letter writer stated, students at the Gilligham Charter School WOULD be tested, receive report cards and have homework. In fact, students at charter schools are required to take the same state mandated tests as all public school students. Instead of numerical grades their report cards would contain written information by their teacher about what they can and can’t do in each subject — in the world of education that’s called narrative or authentic assessment. Homework would be given, it just wouldn’t be excessive. It’s important that children have time to just “be children” after school with time to play, socialize with friends and participate in outside of school activities.
In terms of report cards and grading, what’s more helpful in understanding how your child is doing in school — A number grade of 75 in reading or a written statement by your child’s teacher that says “your child is able to read words in a story very well, but is unable to summarize the story when asked”? Tests would also be given, but instead of giving multiple choice type tests, students would be asked open-ended questions that allow them to showcase what they know about a particular subject. The previous letter to the editor writer said she feared that students attending this charter school would not be prepared for the harsh realities of the real working world. Nothing could be further from the truth. In today’s rapidly changing world, we need our future workers and leaders to be innovative in their thinking.
I taught at a public school in a suburb of Seattle, WA, that embraced many of the same ideas that Gillingham Charter School is purposing (multi-age, non-graded, student-centered). I can tell you that it works and works well. These ideas are also completely in line with what I learned about the best possible way to reach all learners when I received my Masters in Education. In Seattle, I taught both K/1st grade and 2/3rd grade. Having students of differing ages as well as having each student stay with me for two years had numerous benefits. We didn’t have to race through the curriculum in order to get it “done”; we could go deeper into the topics and ideas we were discussing as well as spend more time on concepts students were having trouble with; there was time to adapt the curriculum to meet the students’ varied learning styles; and, by having the students for two years I knew them better and was able to individualize their instruction. Microsoft and Boeing are supporters of this district as well as have their headquarters in the area. They employee many of this district’s graduates. Surely large, international companies like these would want future employees who are well rounded and able to think at a high level.
Because I support having a choice in my child’s education doesn’t mean I don’t support the public schools in Schuylkill County. Quite the opposite – my district and the other districts do a fine job of educating our children. However, not all children will thrive in every school and I support parents’ right to look for alternatives. The only way to drive down the county’s high unemployment rate is to attract businesses – more schooling options in the area would help.
I commend the Gillingham Charter School group for their dedication to helping all students succeed and for their willingness to try something new. New ideas are always hard to accept, but progress only happens when people are willing to accept change.
“Since only one other person replied to this I want to tell everyone Why I chose Gillingham Charter…..When I first heard of GCS it was just a collaborative coming about. Growing up in this area I knew there was little choice in the education of my child. The thought of a public charter school was almost enchanting. A Choice, Another Option? The more I learned I wanted this, for her, for myself and for all children. This researched based learning approach & curriculum just made sense. Smaller classrooms, a natural learning environment, family atmosphere, parent involvement. Relational Education had me sold. Then came the benefits of the music program, as well as the arts and language programs, all centered around the children and the way they learn best. I have the privilege of working Gillingham and work with some of the most passionate and dedicated teachers and staff I have ever met. After two years the progress is clear. My child loves school. Gillingham has instilled in her this passion for knowledge, a love of reading, hands on experiences, opportunities to explore and observe. Her education is her freedom, and more than a test or grade or number. Who knows what the future holds for our children, but I do know that by choosing Gillingham, I am giving her the tools to become a life-long learner.”
– Tara Cromis
“The reason i choose to send my daughter to Gillingham is more curriculum choices than public schools. The outside activities are beneficial to our children to learn information that he or she can use in life. My daughter loves being able to move around in the classroom and outside instead of sitting for long periods of time. I love how the teacher works with us parents when describing how they our teaching and how the child is doing in each subject. This is just my opinion on why we send our child to a charter school. :-)”
– Andrea Snyder-Payne
Letter To The Editor by Buddy Touchinsky
[Posted Thursday, June 4, 2013, and shared with permission.]
From Republican Herald Disqus
9:08 p.m., Saturday June 15
Re: New comment posted on Pottsville Area school board expresses concerns about Gillingham.
My child has been attending the school since it opened and this has been the best move I ever made. My child has flourished immensely. When my child attended our home district (not Pottsville) there was no joy in learning. Many times we would come home to conversations of bad days, frustration in learning, and overall sadness. I was not happy with the instruction or lack there of at times and when I discussed this with the teachers I always received an answer of having to go by the overall plan for the class and nothing else could be done.
Once we started Gillingham it was an entirely different story. Never saw a kid smile so much. My child went from hating to read to loving it and talked about what was done in class every day, which never occured before. Skills in every class increased and so did attention span at home. It was just an incredible experience. I’m not a very trusting person, so I’ve always grilled and tested on my own, even when my child attended public school to make sure the educational system was doing it’s job. This too was a direct result of having my own fare share of bad educational experiences at the local public school I attended.
I’m really confused by parents and the teachers interviewed stating no homework is given. There is reading required every night. Plus, whenever my child was having difficulty in a subject, homework was given. Many times this could have been a 2 weeks stretch or more. When my child was out sick I spoke with the teacher and obtained instructions and what to work on or was emailed classwork in order to keep up. Many times homework was also given after my child returned to school after an illness.
For the parents that have experienced difficulties, perhaps it just wasn’t a good match for your child. Everyone is different. I’m sorry, I just have been extremely pleased from the beginning. For the parents that are not pleased, maybe one of the teachers, whose contract weren’t renewed, were one of the teacher(s) of your child/children. Did you ever think of that?
I will continue to support the Charter school through their early periods and growing phases. It is a very good school that really deserves a chance. PAHS and the paper really need to step back and let them do their job and iron out the bugs before doing a witch hunt.