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GUEST OPINION: Doyle Park school is more than test scores

  • Doyle Park Elementary School principal Kaesa Enemark rallys her charges to take cover under an awning as they wait for a bus after school during a downpour, Friday Jan. 20, 2012 at Doyle Park in Santa Rosa. A plan is being floated to possibly close the school at the end of the school year. (Kent Porter / Press Democrat) 2012

This is in response to the Saturday story about the possible closure of Santa Rosa's Doyle Park Elementary School.

As a retired administrator of a publicly funded child development center on a college campus, I am well aware of fiscal accountability and achievement outcomes.

Unfortunately, the Santa Rosa School District will make a decision to possibly close Doyle Park based on these two issues. However, as a volunteer in a first-grade class at Doyle Park, I feel compelled to share what I know about this lovely place beyond budgets and test scores.

Principal Kaesa Enemark came to Doyle Park two years ago after a succession of seven principals in seven years. Each year that she has been there has brought a greater degree of continuity and organization and the support necessary to build a culture of learning. Primarily, what I see and feel when I am there is a safe and calm environment for children to learn. The students are happy, energetic, engaged, respectful of their teachers and with one another. They are interested in making a contribution in class, individually and collectively.

In the first-grade class where I volunteer, the students all speak English, and, for most of the students, Spanish as well. They are excellent readers, and I have every reason to believe that in time they will also learn to be good test-takers, a skill I believe to be vastly overrated. I would much rather they become passionate about learning, avid readers, scientists or artists, excelling in whatever is their particular talent and ultimate contribution to our society.

While raising my children in Southern California, I sent my sons, by choice, to local public schools that had a diverse cultural mix of families. The experience has provided life-long benefits to my two grown sons, both college graduates and thoughtful, caring human beings. They both experienced being in the minority and majority on various athletic teams and while participating in an array of extracurricular activities.

I believe that having this experience has provided them with invaluable life lessons. When they were attending the neighborhood elementary school, many of my neighbors were sending their children to other schools to avoid the very experience that I sought for my children, creating what is commonly known as "white flight". Schools and communities are always more successful with a strong socio-economic blend of families encouraging and supporting the school's learning environment for strong academic achievement. It is unfortunate that the immediate community has abandoned their local school (diminishing student population) thus weakening the integrity of the institution.

All any good parent wants is the very best for their children, and usually the very best can be found and nurtured in their own neighborhood. If the district chooses to keep Doyle Park open, my advice to the community is to come back and work to enhance what is already quite wonderful. You won't be disappointed.

Lucy Groetsch, a retired director of a community college child care center, works as a classroom volunteer and the garden coordinator at Doyle Park Elementary School in Santa Rosa.


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