Letter to State Board Regarding Quest Middle School

This email was sent Monday, May 5, 2014 to each of the members of the State Board of Education regarding the hearing scheduled for May 8, 2014. Hopefully, this will help and inspire others to share their own stories with the Board.

Members of the Board of Education:

We are the proud parents of two excellent students of Middle School age who reside in West Little Rock, in the Pulaski County Special School District. Our children attended Chenal Elementary (which school we love), and when the oldest (Benjamin) graduated from 5th, we enrolled him at Robinson Middle. By mid-term of the first semester, it was obvious that the environment at RMS was not conducive for this particular child’s learning. Other students of our acquaintance were doing fine, but for Ben’s sake, we felt it necessary to withdraw him from RMS and find another route. We cannot afford private school, but Carol works full-time from home and was able to let him learn from online courses for the rest of the 6thgrade.

Meanwhile, we talked to many parents, teachers, and the GT director at Chenal who is familiar with both our children. We learned that Quest Middle School was applying for a charter, but it would be at least a year before it could happen. The GT director at Chenal recommended ARVA (Arkansas Virtual Academy), and we promptly enrolled both children (now 6th and 7th graders) into ARVA. ARVA has an excellent format and curriculum, but because Carol works full time, we have not been able to let the children participate in any ARVA-sponsored field trips or get-togethers. We live rather isolated in the country, and we have felt the children’s need for more socialization, particularly with children their own age.

Thus, we were thrilled to find that you, the Board, had approved the Charter for Quest Middle School and also the change in location, which suits us fine and actually gives the school the opportunity to serve a wider range of students from different income levels. Our children are looking forward to next Fall and re-entering a classroom setting in an environment that is suitable to their personalities and particular needs. More to the point, we are thrilled that there are good options available to those of us who cannot afford private schooling and do not “fit” in the large public school setting.

One other note, that’s very important: the great part about having Middle School children is that they are mature enough to understand the processes of governments. We have shared with Ben and Kathryn the process that a proposed Charter school must go through to be approved, and they have closely watched each decision the Board has made regarding Quest. It has been a great study in government for them, as well as for us. They have asked a great question: “Why would the local School Districts try to keep a Charter School from opening?” An excellent question, one we sincerely hope you consider honestly as you approach the hearing on May 8thAs a family, we are asking you to consistently uphold your excellent decision to approve the location change for Quest Middle School; it is important to Ben and Kathryn and to many others that we have met who are eager to start Quest this Fall.

Thank you for taking the time to read about just two of the thousands of children in Arkansas that the Board serves. You have reason to be proud of the progress that is being made in education in our state, and as parents, we are glad to know that you recognize that every child is different, and the more options that are available, the better we can meet the educational goals for each child. It is our belief that we must be as diverse in our educational offerings, as we are diverse in our society.

In sincere thanks and appreciation for your service,

Jay and Carol Weisenfelder

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