Dear Governor Wolf:
On August 13, 2019 you stated:
“While many charter schools are succeeding, others, especially some cyber charter schools are under-performing and we are not doing enough to hold them accountable to the taxpaying public and the children they serve.”
You spoke those troubling words as you announced your executive action to rewrite the Charter School Law in Pennsylvania. Another devastating announcement was made by Curt Sonney, Pennsylvania House Education Committee Chairman on October 4, 2019. He is sponsoring an Act Amending the Public School Code of 1949 so that school districts provide cyber education. According to Sonney, he seeks to
“eliminate the tension between school districts and cyber charter schools.”
His desire is to have this amendment in place by the start of the next school year.
As a parent, educator, and taxpayer who votes regularly, I have major concerns about this recommended change.
I Do Not Support This Proposed Amendment
Changing the law is a terrible idea for these reasons.
1. It Is Not Fair Take Away My Right To Choose
As a parent, I have the right to select the educational program the represents the right fit for my child. I know my daughter better than any politician does. Because of this, I know what educational program is in her best interest. PA Distance Learning Charter is the school that I carefully researched and ultimately selected for my child to attend.
2. District Charter Schools Will Not Be Equipped To Offer High Quality Cyber Programs
Brick and mortar school districts engage educators in rigorous as well as continuous professional development programs tailored to the traditional school setting. It is unreasonable for any politician to believe that school districts have the immediate capacity to provide the extensive financial resources, staff training, and time to create any cyber program that services students who are already enrolled in other cyber schools.
3. It Is Wrong To Force Successful Students Out Of Their Current Cyber Programs
The politicians who desire to change the law are not considering students who are enrolled in cyber schools. Many students attend these programs for different reasons. Mrs. Patricia Rossetti, CEO of the PA Distance Learning Charter School elaborated on this in her November 2, 2019 article entitled “Let’s Keep School Choice: Op-Ed” posted on social media. She stated:
“…many families choose cyber charter schools because their children have learning disabilities, require special education and individualized learning plans, or have been victims of bullying and other traumatic in-school experiences.”
As a former traditional public school teacher as well as school and district level administrator, school districts will not have the ability to service the differentiated needs of students in a cyber program. (Many school districts are financially challenged as they service their current student population!) Such children will ultimately be forced into the traditional school environment. Additionally, families who left their home school district due to any type of unhappiness, injustice, or grievance will not have a desire to return.
My Back Story Led Me To PA Distance Learning Charter School
Past experiences gave me peace about selecting PA Distance Learning Charter School for my daughter to attend.
While time has passed by, I am
deeply troubled by two different encounters that I had with educators at the previous schools that my daughter attended.
In the first incident, as a mother, I had the desire to simply observe my child within her classroom environment for a short time when she was in second grade. Simply stated, the teacher told me
The teacher would not allow me into the classroom to discretely observe my child.
With the second situation, as I shared details about child’s journey as a unique learner, an educator scolded me for enabling my child.
I lost respect for these educators and distanced myself from them.
There Is More To My Story…
I took an early retirement from public education to not only monitor my daughter’s cyber education but to advocate for family engagement in education. PA Distance Learning Charter School offer wonderful things that include:
-caring, engaged, and responsive teachers and school personnel;
-flexibility to accommodate my child’s athletic development;
-highly qualified educators; and
-rigorous yet stress free learning.
However, here is one of the most significant reasons why I chose this school:
their commitment to family engagement.
Out of the nine years that my daughter has been enrolled in school,
PA Distance Learning Charter School
has been the only one that understands that family engagement involves forming a partnership with parents for the betterment of the education of students. This partnership develops when positive relationships are fostered and sustained between educators and parents. Their commitment to family engagement is modeled during interactions with all school personnel whether in person during unannounced on-site visits to the school, during verbal exchanges, and embedded in e-mail messages as well as weekly newsletters. Their approach to family engagement is school wide.
Other Places I Have Been
As I mentioned earlier, I am an experienced educator who worked many years in traditional brick and mortar settings.
My final position was serving as Assistant to the Superintendent for Family and Community Engagement and Volunteerism. While some professionals joined me in fostering positive relationships with parents, most did not. It was a struggle. I found it frustrating that the school district failed to prioritize family engagement as an extremely important area of education that ALL employees were accountable to.
It is my believe that most school districts that are confronted with challenging issues such as
test scores, and
would not accentuate family engagement like PA Distance Learning Charter School does.
In The Voice Of My Daughter
I asked my daughter who is enrolled at the school to describe what her teachers mean to her. This is what she said:
“I am able to learn better. The teachers are actually working to help me. They are the best I’ve ever had.”
My Request: Look For Another Alternative
I understand that there is the desire to alleviate the layers of tension that exist between cyber charter and traditional public schools. However, eliminating school choice for my child and every other child who attends their cyber school of choice is definitely not the answer.
I encourage you to engage educators who have had vast professional experiences from brick and mortar and cyber schools to engage in robust conversations and find solutions to this issue. I recommend that parents be included in this process, too. Because your decision will impact the lives of our most precious members of society, changes in the law should not be rushed.
“Make haste slowly.”
Dr. Deborah M. Vereen,
Mother, Author, Family Engagement Influencer, and CEO, Families With Us LLC
I invite you to join me by uniting together to create change in this area. Be sure to sign up to be on my email list at Deboram.email@example.com to receive a periodic copy of my newsletter and specific information about advancing the
Ignite Family Engagement Movement.
Here’s my golden ticket that helps me accomplish my mission.
Dr. Deborah M. Vereen is a retired family and consumer sciences teacher, school principal, director of pupil personnel services, assistant to the superintendent for family and community engagement, and professor of multicultural education. Her website is www.Drdeborahmvereen.com and she is dedicating the rest of her life to serving as a Global Family Engagement Influencer.