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Saturday, April 16, 2011

The Grass is Always Greener......

You've heard the saying, "The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence". And in reality, that's not always the case. Erin Crafton has a great piece in the Saturday, Rock Hill Herald, on her experience with a great school in her own neighborhood. An important lesson for us all.

Public school provides great learning experience for kids

 - Special to The Herald
In a time when we have so many options for our children's education, I would like to tell you about my experience and support for our hometown school, Oakdale Elementary.
Oakdale has been through a lot over the past few years, with two rezonings causing some big changes. Now, with all of the schools of choice, private and charter school options, I would hate to see people pass up a great thing they have right in their own backyards.
Don't get me wrong, I support choices, and I did explore some of them for my children. After talking with teachers and staff at Oakdale about my interest in other school choices, I received nothing but respect and support for whatever decision I made for my children.
That speaks volumes about Oakdale. The focus is always about what is best for the children, even if it meant that I, as a parent, felt it might be best to change schools. One thing I learned after looking into my other options is that regardless of where my daughters go to school, there will be challenges.
But I cannot think of a better group of people to face those challenges with than everybody at Oakdale Elementary. Aside from the family atmosphere and caring environment, I feel that the level of academics taught there are second to none. In the short three years my children have attended, I have seen Oakdale make changes to its curriculum, daily schedules, technology and enrichment programs to accommodate not only the changing times but also each student's needs.
Unique to Oakdale are its many clubs and enrichment programs, such as reading buddies, which allows about 60 children to meet before school to read together. Third through fifth grades offer a wide variety of clubs led by teachers for the children to participate in every Wednesday. The S.P.I.C.E. Club (Students Practicing Ideas of Character Education) has been a popular way for Oakdale students to get involved with the Rock Hill community for 20 years.
The school has won several recycling and environmental awareness awards over the years. This year, a second-grade teacher is offering an after-school physical education/healthy living jump-rope club to her students. Participation has been good, and we hope to see it continue and open up to the other students. There are several art exhibits and music programs such as Glee Club for children to showcase their creativity through the arts.
Oakdale sets high academic expectations and backs it up with the tools to help the children at every level succeed. Every classroom in the school has technological tools in the classroom, as well as access to more throughout the school. Children learn differently, and with technology combined with so many different teaching tools used with personal teacher instruction, every child is given a chance to discover things in so many ways.
This was the first school and only one of two now utilizing the Web-based Odyssey program, which presents each child with math and reading lessons based on his or her individual MAPS test scores. Because it is Web-based, it is used at school as well as at home. Every day, the children break off into small groups with different teachers based on their academic needs. Homework is assigned based on their needs as well. All of this allows children to excel at a pace designed specifically for them!
Oakdale Elementary encourages the students to get involved with what goes on at their school. They have monthly Town Hall meetings in which the children are updated on school news and given a chance to participate in their school happenings.
They have a terrific positive reinforcement behavior tool called Dragon Dollars. Each child is given a Dragon Dollar when he or she is seen following their Braggin' Dragon Rules, which are Be Respectful, Be Responsible, Be Safe, and Be a Problem Solver. The kids can save them and use these rewards to shop for prizes once a month. Celebrations are held four times a year for the children who maintain good behavior. There are several opportunities for every student to be rewarded for showing off good character.
I have become very passionate about our school. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to be a part of Oakdale. I consider these people our teachers, our community and our friends.
If you are a parent looking into other school options, the one piece of advice I would like to pass along is to do your research. Don't make a decision based on hearsay or rumors. Go to the school, walk around, talk with the principal, talk with a teacher, talk with somebody at the PTO.
I know that Oakdale teachers and staff will be happy to show off their school!

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