Many times in life we encounter things that we do not agree with, that we feel are wrong, but too many times, we just sit back. We fail to take action. Maybe it is due to fear, maybe we think that taking action will result in negativity, to our careers, our jobs, our families.
Two weeks ago, I was disappointed to hear that the Leominster LEAP program, a program for gifted and advanced students, held at Southeast School, is being discontinued to the dismay of current LEAP parents. This was confirmed when I read a Facebook post with the letter written by the Superintendent and signed by the elementary school principals also posted. Last week, I went outside of my comfort zone and addressed the Leominster School Committee, asking for a public forum to discuss saving the LEAP program. Now, my goal is to inspire more parents and concerned citizens of Central Mass to join me on June 1st at the school committee at the Appleseed restaurant at the Leominster Center of Technical Education.
My son has been in the program for the past three years and has flourished, while before he entered this program, he hated school. He was bored and as a result, I got weekly calls from the vice principal of JA. My son got detentions in kindergarten and lost recesses weekly. When he transitioned to the LEAP program, I never received calls about behavior problems. I have talked to many parents of other LEAP students, and the story is the same. Before LEAP, their children were bored in the general class room and as a result, they got in trouble.
The beauty of LEAP is that due to the class being made up of gifted children, teachers do not need to spend time on review, and more time can be spent on math and science and challenging projects.
I question how this can be achieved in an inclusion classroom. How can the teacher challenge the gifted students while at the same time review material for other classmates? Who will the teacher focus on? There are only some many minutes in the day. How can this be accomplished? Do we want our gifted children learning how to build bridges through a computer program, or do we want them to be working hands on with a team, to build a model of a bridge and use scientific method to test their theories.
Now I have a 5 year old daughter going into kindergarten in the fall who has been reading since she was 4 and is now on chapter books. Without the LEAP program, how many behavioral calls will I be getting, when she is bored in the next few years? Furthermore, we need more girls in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and this is the perfect program to promote this goal.
The LEAP Program has been amazing for my son and I was hoping my daughter would be able to benefit from this program too. Both of my children are on IEPs and are on the autism spectrum, with high functioning Aspergers. Both Children are gifted, early readers, love math, future engineers and astronomers. I see this program as an extension of my son’s IEP. The project based curriculum and the dynamics of the teachers all play a part in his success. Additionally, the fact that the cohort of Vincent of classmates are the same each year has decreases the social issues and improves his social interactions.
Several things about the district’s decision is troubling to LEAP parents:
- Why were parents not consulted prior to the decision?
- Why did the letter only go out to the 2nd graders when this decision affects all current LEAP families as no more families will be added especially to the middle school cohort?
- Many parents, including myself, are considering sending their children to charter schools based on this premise. The current public schools are simply not a good fit for my children and LEAP does so much more and keeps my children in district.
- What does Common Core have to do with giftedness being addressed?
- I would like to emphasize that the removal of LEAP will guarantee increased school choice and result in students leaving Leominster as well as a loss of the tax funds for each student. I know many families that will choose to attend charter schools with the loss of the LEAP program.
Please join me in writing letters to support the continuance of the Leap program in Leominster for all our future children. Write to the superintendent, the school committee, the principals, the mayor and our elected officials. We can sit back and let this just happen or we can advocate for our children….
Finally, there is a documented skills gap in the state of Massachusetts in STEM industries, with many students graduating from high school without the needed skills to enter into STEM College programs. We need to support the pipeline to develop the skills and knowledge of our youth, to fill this growing gap.
This is something worth fighting for. In the last two weeks through Facebook, I have made any friends, we worked together to advocate for this wonderful program. I was also very disappointed to hear a mother of LEAP students state that the program would not continue, as in her words “the program was the baby of the prior superintendent, and that the current superintendent was against the program from the start, and that, according to her, only one school committee member supported it… It seemed that because her children where older and benefited, she did not care to advocate for its continuance, even though she thought it was horrible that the gifted children would be left to general education… We need to rise above these opinions, stick to the facts and keep our eyes on the prize…