We came upon the school, quite accidentally, while exploring historic homes on a South Miami street mystically shaded by the arms of Giant Banyan trees. We made a turn and voila! - there it was. The school was everything we thought we wanted: an hour a day of gymnastics instruction, small class sizes and an educational philosophy surrounding the development of the whole child. During the tour we fell in love with the school and while we had not initially planned to remain in Miami - we wanted to continue our travel abroad - we stayed. We stayed for the school.
The beginning of the school year was tough - our son struggled with the transition - he would cry at night that he didn't want to go back to school. We felt strongly at the time that this was normal, that he just needed time to become accustomed to a new environment. While the crying stopped for the most part he never stopped saying that he didn't want to go to school.
At parent/teacher conferences we expressed our concerns: he was often sad - could a 5 year old be depressed? - and then there was the email. An email sent by one staff member to another sharing personal information about our son that was accidentally sent to every single family in my son's class. We felt betrayed. The response by the school? To send another email attached to the hurtful email to all of the Kindergarten parents apologizing for the slip up.
The principal implored us to understand. It was just a mistake. It could happen to anyone and, eventually, we were willing to forgive. We had invested our lives into the school - I had taken a position as Director of Marketing and After Care at the school - routinely working until 1am on promotional projects to increase awareness of the school. My family would often have dinner on the school's campus just so that we could be together before our drive home. I wanted to believe that the values we had been sold on were true: Family, Community, Support.
It was at this time that we stopped receiving regular communication regarding our son's progress. At a follow up conference with his teacher and the principal we reiterated our desire for more contact, more positive reinforcement for our son and educational enrichment. The school responded to these requests with a resounding NO. They did not believe our son would benefit from any additional support. Requests for positive reinforcement, extra breaks throughout the day and validation of his interests were called "over the top". Our requests for help were repeatedly denied. We suggested inviting a professional to visit the school to observe our son throughout the day so that the school could implement a plan that would support him in his learning environment. When the school finally agreed we decided to keep our son home from school until the plan could be implemented. We thought it best if he could start fresh in a positive environment rather than the one he had already been experiencing.
Before the observation could be completed the school responded again, by email: "Ours is an extraordinary School and the children in attendance are very fortunate. This does not mean that our School is the right fit for every child, and it seems that at the present time, you would be happier elsewhere."
We were devastated, shocked and so hurt by the school's decision to dismiss our son. The school that called themselves our "family". The school that told us that our trust in them was not misplaced after they violated our privacy…
This experience marked the beginning of our journey to create a truly supportive educational environment for children of ALL abilities. A place where interests could be explored and encouraged - where being different or smart or creative is a gift - not a hindrance. A place where no child would ever feel unwanted.
So it begins.