A letter to our school district

Thank you to our students Caitlyn Lee and Claire Sabbe, Consejo de padres president Christie Cesar, board members Vicky Money, Arturo Lomeli, and Jim Mullaney, and school board emeritus Danielle Siver for presenting at our hearing last night with the Beaverton School District. We couldn’t do this without everyone’s support! It was great to be back in front of familiar faces along with a new district Superintendent, Jeff Rose, to share our success stories. We have been able to demonstrate that we are in compliance with state and federal requirements as well as the conditions of our charter agreement. Our conservative budgeting and spending combined with our PTO fundraising has made Arco Iris fiscally sound with reserves. Combine this with our student performance and public interest and it signals to us that we are on the right track for long-term success.

We closed the evening with a letter read by your school board president:

Good Evening. My name is Deonne Knill, I joined the Arco Iris school board 3 years ago, and I now currently serve as president. I was here for your final vote for our charter approval. I understand how difficult that decision was, to take a risk on something new. For us, it’s hard to be first. Sometimes it’s hard to not feel like the mouse being trampled by the elephants. Plus, new businesses are challenging. I can honestly say that it has been a whirlwind experience of unexpected challenges and amazing satisfaction. I am so proud of where we are as a school, proud of our students and our amazing staff.  I hope the district can look back and say that they made the right decision 3 years ago. I know I am.

When we talk about student performance, the one thing that comes to the forefront for us is “continuous improvement.” We have high expectations of our students. They are asked to master two languages. They are challenged in math, in science, social studies, English, and Spanish. But we also believe that the SCHOOL, as a business, also needs to follow the same requirements. We can’t talk the talk without walking the walk.

So every year, we solicit feedback from our parents. We ask them how they feel their child is progressing academically. We want to know how we are doing with community involvement, our atmosphere, and relationships between students and staff.  How is our PTO? How well are we communicating, not only with our general information, but with things like lunches, fundraising, events, and what is going on in the classroom? As we all know, the devil is in the details, and we’re trying to get the little details ironed out.

What do we do with this information? It comes to the school board. Results are shared with our staff. We include items in our School Improvement Plan. We have weekly updates from the office and our teachers, monthly newsletters, and winter and spring performances for our students. This will be our second year for a science fair. It’s our first year for Biz Town. We have a student council, so our students have a voice. The top items from the survey become projects for our principal, school board, and Consejo de padres group to work on together for the next year. We are serious about our school-wide continuous improvement. Personally, I think it’s only fair – we expect it from our students, we should do the same from the adults who run it.

Frankly, the word about Arco Iris is spreading. Our first year enrollment was approximately 60 students, this year we are about 150. Last year we had to hold our first lottery for our first and second grades. This year we had over 180 students apply to enter our school in the fall.

We did NO ADVERTISING this year. There were no radio program ads, no slides at the Valley Theater, no spots in Metro Parent or NW Kids Magazine. We held one open house and one evening information session. And we asked – where did you hear about us. And the vast majority said “friends.”

The fact that our families will refer their friends and family to entrust their children’s education to us is a great honor. We don’t treat this lightly.

Of these 180+ student applications, over 100 were for first grade. Of these 180, 40 students are home school, private school, or charter school transfers. We love that we can be an option for these families to attend a public school and reenter this great school district.

Finally, I would like to offer a personal thank you. As a current school board member, I recognize the risk you took by approving our charter agreement three years ago. As a parent, I am able to see how my son’s future has been opened by this experience. His passion for math is so exciting. As an engineer, I love to see this part of him grow. But as a mom, I think what I love the most is his multi-cultural learning and his second language development. To see him at a local playground speaking in Spanish with other kids he does not know is heartwarming. Recently he came home talking so highly of Chinese New Year and the paper he wrote in class – from red packets, to cleaning, to foods to eat for good fortune. But he did it in Spanish. That’s what we are about.

So thank you for taking that leap of faith. We are a fantastic educational option for children in our community. We have great, dedicated staff. We are fiscally sound with conservative budgets and reserves. Our PTO and Consejo de padres groups contribute to round out our team of volunteers and professionals to make this school a success. I look forward to working with you on our next 3-year charter agreement.  Thank you.

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6 Responses to A letter to our school district

  1. Lynn Conti says:

    Beautifully written Deonne! Thanks so much for your hard work and dedication to our school and our kids! Lynn (Ryli’s mom)

  2. Kimberly S says:

    Deonne – what you have done for our wonderful little school is a true gift!! I hope this is a proud moment for you and the entire board!!

  3. DJ says:

    Thank goodness for you, the board, and Arco Iris. I do not know what we would do without this option. We have been so pleased. I am just blown away at the way the administration, staff, PTO and board have successfully created an atmosphere of cooperation and mutual support among the kids. My daughter speaks at length of how considerate the kids are. The way they boost each other up is so different from the way kids can fall into popularity contests and in-fighting. It is AMAZING to me that the parents and staff can plan to create such an atmosphere, and then bring that into reality. The academics are a lifesaver, but the community is priceless!

  4. Mary T. says:

    Wow, what an incredible speech, it brought tears to my eyes. Thank you, Deonne, for representing our school, communicating our values, benefits, and success. I am so proud of our school and grateful we have this wonderful opportunity available for students. Yay!

  5. Wendy A says:

    What wonderful words Deonne….I am with Mary – tears formed in my eyes. This school has really grown and so have our kids..in many ways! 🙂

  6. Rosa Sangiovanni says:

    Congratulations. Thanks for your hard work, dedication and support!

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