Saturday, June 5, 2010

Peace Journalism Project Update

Working on a million last minute details before I leave for Uganda in two weeks for my peace journalism project. (for details, see ). I have received a third State Dept. grant, and will be in Uganda from July 2010 to April 2011. Stay updated on the project, and on the latest from the two students who will be studying with me in Uganda in July, on this page, on my peace journalism home page ( ), and on my facebook peace journalism page (under search, just type in peace journalism, then join the group).

Assessing seven years of education

From the Parkville Luminary

Dear Park Hill School District:

As my son Alex concludes the mid-way point of his K-12 education in the Park Hill District, I wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for what has been almost without exception a stellar experience for my son.

Alex’s educational journey began at English Landing Elementary School. Of his six teachers there, four were outstanding, while the other two were merely good. Alex was always a different kid—quiet in class, needing a little extra attention, extra-sensitive to criticism, etc. Knowing this, the administration and teachers at English Landing always did an outstanding job placing Alex with the perfect teacher for him.

For example, his first grade teacher, Renee Weyer, is the kind of teacher kids who have just graduated from high school (and college) come back to visit. I sat in on her class a number of times, and marveled at how she lovingly directed and corralled a wild bunch of first graders, yet somehow managed to deliver the curriculum so that it stuck. Jennifer Wright, Sasha Erwin, and Vanessa Larson were the same way with their kids—firm but loving.

Not only were his English Landing teachers outstanding, but so was the support staff there—nurses, secretaries, the speech therapist, and so on. In kindergarten, we were a little concerned about how much time Alex was spending in the nurse’s office during the first part of the school year, especially since he didn’t appear to be sick. Finally, I marched up to school to get to the bottom of this. It took me 2 seconds to figure out what was going on. The nurse, Mrs. Kellam, was extremely cute and very nice, and it was easy to see that my son had his first real crush. The order went out from that point on: no visits to the nurse unless experiencing an arterial bleed.

Speaking of cute, Alex showed me a picture once of the school’s speech therapist, and asked me if I thought she was pretty. I said yes, and did not comment further. Alex immediately went to school and told her, “My dad thinks you’re HOT.” You can imagine my next embarrassing encounter with her at school. Thanks, son.

Of course, all of the faculty and staff’s professionalism, and English Landing’s nurturing atmosphere, are directly attributable to the principals who manned the school during Alex’s stint there. Kerry Roe and Jeanette Hoy are the kind of principals that strike me as pretty tough, but pretty loving as well. I believe they both knew every kid’s name at English Landing.

From English Landing, my son went to Plaza Middle School this year. For the uninitiated, all Park Hill sixth graders go to this building, which houses only sixth graders. The idea is to give them a chance to acclimate to secondary education, changing classes, multiple teachers, male teachers, without pressure from older peers. I was skeptical of this concept at the outset, but must admit I am now sold on the idea. It really was a tough transition for Alex, and for many others as well, but the teachers at Plaza did an outstanding job of helping the kids work through their anxieties. I was also impressed with the academics at Plaza, which really challenged Alex this year. Especially noteworthy were Alex’s social studies/science teacher, Mr. Comstock, his Communications teacher Mrs. Ninemire, and his math teacher, Mrs. Rietzke. Alex has never done so well in math, a fact I credit to Mrs. Rietzke’s magic. Thanks also to Plaza’s principal, Dr. Michael Brown, who runs a tight ship but doesn’t forget to have fun. Alex came home laughing many times at Dr. Brown’s morning video announcements, which often featured a dance number to the abysmal song, “It’s Raining Men”.

So, because of the professionals at Plaza Middle and English Landing schools, the bar is set pretty high for these next six years. About this time in 2016, I’ll pass along my report on Lakeview Middle School and Park Hill South High School.

Thanks again for seven great years.

Steven Youngblood, parent

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