Editor’s Note: Courtney Kennedy, a mother of three Seven Generations Charter School students, addressed the East Penn Board of School Directors at the board’s March 12 meeting. What follows is an excerpt of her remarks to the board. The school board will vote on the renewal of the Seven Gen charter in the coming months.
Like East Penn, Seven Gen is serving a wide audience and doing so well. Parents send their children to Seven Gen for a variety of reasons. You see, it comes down to what is right for each child, some kids will thrive at a school like Seven Gen and some kids will thrive in a more traditional school. One school isn’t better than another, but one school can be better for a particular child than another.
Quite a few of my friends decided not to enroll their children at Seven Gen in part because they didn’t want their children to be guinea pigs at a new school. I don’t blame them. Our children ARE guinea pigs. At Seven Generations, we try new things. Because of this, we have had some trials and errors and the school has made adjustments. In the end, the experiment at Seven Gen has turned out to be a great success.
In short, Seven Gen is acting as a charter school should. Charter school law says that Charter schools should “Encourage the use of different and innovative teaching methods” and “Create new professional opportunities for teachers, including the opportunity to be responsible for the learning program at the school site.” Charter schools give other public schools the opportunity to observe the trials and adopt the things that work. New ideas can be contagious and Seven Gen has been an incubator of new ideas.
My most important point is that we should not be considered a threat to the education of children in East Penn. Seven Gen cheers for the success of all children in East Penn. We are proud when we hear about the National Merit Finalists, the excellent musicals, and the new school gardens. We are sorry to hear of budget cuts. After all, we are a public school. But people get confused, they don’t realize that:
- we are not funded by vouchers (we have the same strict legal requirements and standardized tests as the rest of East Penn),
- we are a brick and mortar charter school (not a cyber-charter school - we have classrooms where the children interact with each other and with their teachers),
- we are a charter school that is run by a non-profit organization (we are not run by a company looking to make a profit – like many of the charter schools you read about in papers).
Finally, we are a charter school that values our teachers and staff. Our teachers are paid more than most charter schools and they pay into the State teacher’s retirement system.
If you are inclined to think of Seven Generations students as outsiders and as a threat, please take another look. We are an asset to this community not only because we foster new ideas and are garnering national accolades, but because we ease East Penn’s classroom crowding in an economical way. (Seven Gen’s presence has, however modestly, decreased classroom sizes in every elementary school in the district.)
As we look to increased development in Macungie in the near future, Seven Gen will continue to help relieve this burden—while our students continue to strive to make the community better for everyone.