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On Thanksgiving: A Thank You Note to Every Mendham Township Taxpayer

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We’ve started our Thanksgiving weekend, and in addition to the usual reasons we give thanks (family, friends, good health), I would like to say thank you to every Mendham Township Taxpayer, whether or not you voted to pass the 2009-10 school budget, for contributing to the school programs that benefit my children, London and Maddie. Here’s why:

After our November parent-teacher conferences, I sent the following letter to Mendham Township Schools Superintendent Kris Harrison, MTES Principal Cara Allen, and Director of Curriculum Sandy Cullis:

Rex and I wanted to let you know how pleased we’ve been with the new programs at MTES this school year. Whenever we’ve been in the school halls, we’ve felt a very positive vibe among the students that reflects your “discipline with love” style, making “respect,” “cooperation,” and “work ethic” mean more than just words on a bulletin board. From the Outdoor Learning Center to additional technology in every classroom, the changes have taken MTES to a higher level. London and Maddie come home from school every day with enthusiastic stories about their classes with Allison Klacik and Laura Gallagher, and they’re even more excited about Gateways and Quest with Dori Smyth. Last week during conferences, Rex and I had the opportunity to meet with all three teachers to discuss our daughters’ progress, and we are thrilled about the enrichment experiences they have received from Gateways and Quest. It’s clear there’s an extra bounce in their steps because of these programs.

As you may know, we have been focused on challenging our children through a Gifted & Talented program at MTES since London started Kindergarten in September 2006, and your team’s implementation and execution in the program’s first year is impressive. The daily opportunity for London to go out to Gateways to read and interact on a level with her academic peers has made a world of difference in advancing her reading comprehension, encouraging her to reach to get to a higher level, and inspiring/continuing her love of learning. Beyond academic success, Rex and I have emphasized the value of leadership to our children, and Allison Klacik let us know that London has taken a strong leadership role in sharing her Quest experiences with the rest of her third grade class. In the second grade, Maddie has really grabbed hold of the weekly puzzles in her Gateways class, and always accepts the extra challenges that Dori Smyth delivers. Maddie has made serious progress in reading this year, as well as discovering and excelling at logic puzzles. Nancy Fuller continues to make sure math isn’t left out of the enrichment equation, and her energy brings out the math whiz in all of us when the girls bring home her enrichment packets.

Please let us know if there’s anything more we can do to continue to support Gateways, Quest, and other enrichment programs at MTES, and do let Dori Smyth know that both kids and parents believe she’s doing a fantastic job. Keep up the solid effort!

Kris Harrison responded quickly and reminded me that During these difficult financial times, our schools, like others, will face deep scrutiny over every budgetary line item.  As we move forward this year, please feel free to share your experiences with other families and your neighbors who do not have children in our schools as every positive story should be told.  If our community is informed about how well we are meeting students’ needs  there should be little worry about passing the budget and sustaining programs such as G&T/Enrichment and guidance that so often can be characterized as luxury items.” 

So at Thanksgiving, I thought it was just the right time to thank each and every one of the Mendham Township taxpayers, particularly those of you who don’t have children or whose children have grown up and no longer benefit from the programs offered at our elementary and middle schools.  In addition to the Gifted and Talented programs, I never realized until Sarah Springer, the new Mendham Township Elementary School guidance counselor, came into our lives how much my daughters needed her.  Without airing too much of our family’s dirty laundry, I’d like to acknowledge how important a guidance counselor turned out to be:  London consulted Mrs. Springer for strategies to deal with her recurring nightmares about people-stealers; Maddie has also needed a resource for issues related to stress and worries.

For parents of children who don’t participate directly in the new MTES Quest and Gateways programs, I’d encourage you to consider the idea that enrichment benefits everyone.  When London goes out for 3rd Grade Gateways (reading enrichment on the seventh grade level), her friends who stay behind in Ms. Klacik’s class benefit from smaller reading groups and extra attention.  When she participates in Quest (the top 10% of academic achievers in the 3rd Grade), the rest of her class has an enrichment period devoted to Master Enrichment…  projects on each student’s topic of choice.

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