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The Reason And Consequences For The Popular Transfers From The Friendship School

Many Waterford parents are breaking their commitment from The Friendship School in the last year to save money on daycare.

For the second year in a row, Waterford had to hire another kindergarten teacher just days before school started because dozens of parents took their children out of for kindergarten and into Waterford's public schools.

The reason, according to Friendship School Director Kathy Surpin and Superintendent Jerome Belair, who have talked to all the parents, is not because The Friendship School is considered a worse school or there is any problems with the curriculum. Instead, mostly it comes down to dollars and cents, Belair said.

“I have not heard my child is not being challenged, I don’t like the program,” he said. “It's all been an economic piece.”

The Friendship School has a half-day on Wednesday, which means parents have to pay for more daycare on that day, Belair and Suprin said. According to the Friendship School’s website, there is a daycare program at the school for just Wednesdays that costs $25 a week.

The other big reason students leave the last year at the Friendship School is because they have an older sibling who goes to one of Waterford’s schools, and parents want their children to be together and for them to leave school and come back from school at the same time, according to Belair and Suprin. Still, Belair pointed out parents basically get two free years of preschool at The Friendship School, and their child took a spot that could of went to somebody else.

“When they back out of that, they’ve taken a space for somebody who could have committed for the three years,” Belair said. “So both Kathy Suprin and I have told parents this is about equity and fairness.”

Background

The Friendship School is a magnet school built in 2005 and is composed of 520 three, four and five year olds from New London and Waterford, according to the school’s website. To get into the school, parents sign up their children for a lottery, and their children are selected at random, according to the website.

To go to The Friendship School, parents sign an agreement pledging that their child will stay at the school for all three years. During the first two years, it essentially serves as a free pre-school program for the families, Belair said.

The third year serves as kindergarten, and when the school was built in 2005, Waterford only had half-day kindergarten, Suprin said. However, when every new Waterford elementary school opened up (the new Quaker Hill Elementary opened in 2008, the new Oswegatchie Elementary opened in 2009 and the new Great Neck Elementary opened in 2010), Waterford began offering full-day kindergarten.

The Problem

Once full-day kindergarten was offered at Waterford, more parents wanted to break their commitment from The Friendship School, largely to save money on daycare on Wednesdays or to put both of their children on the same schedule, Suprin said. Waterford would always reject these requests, stating they made a commitment to The Friendship School, Belair said.

Then one parent called the Connecticut Department of Education, which told Waterford that the commitment was not binding and if parents wanted, they could break their commitment to The Friendship School and go to Waterford schools, Belair said. That one person told others, and a trend formed, he said.

Last year, 47 Waterford parents took their children out of The Friendship School’s kindergarten program, forcing Waterford to hire another kindergarten teacher a week before school started, Belair said. This year, 35 parents did the same thing, again forcing Waterford to hire a kindergarten teacher two weeks before school started, Belair said.

The Solution

Suprin and Belair said they are looking to change The Friendship School’s hours, so it will have a full day on Wednesdays. Also, The Friendship School runs from 9:30 to 3:45, while Waterford schools begin at 8:30 and get out earlier, so Belair and Suprin said they are looking to find a way to have them all start and end at the same time.

“Our hope is to address that issue so it doesn’t become an issue anymore,” Belair said.

christine August 25, 2012 at 01:43 AM
The Friendship School is a wonderful program. Many public schools in Connecticut have Pre-K programs as part of their curriculum.Pre-K is NOT daycare... the children are learning many important literacy and math skills as well as social skills. Every teacher at The Friendship School is a certified teacher with a degree in Elementary or Early Childhood Education, unlike daycare centers where the people working with children do not need to have a degree. Many studies have shown that early childhood education is very important in a child's development- so for those of you who are complaining about your tax dollars being wasted on "daycare", just remember that the children of today will be the leaders of tomorrow making decisions for you!!!
Kevin Girard August 25, 2012 at 03:55 AM
Thanks Christine and Dave for showing me how I could be misunderstood. I'd like to clarify. I can understand that situations change in the time their children are there. I can completely understand people doing "what's best for their child" when circumstances arise (as in your case). There are needs for exceptions and adjustments to even the best of plans, and that's all part of life. What I was making a point about are people who selfishly mock the system - in this case, at the detriment of others There are kids who didn't get in because someone selfishly took the spot. It was highly inconvenient for me to keep my child there last year when he could have gone to our local kindergarten with big sister. But I gave my word, and there were no extenuating circumstances like you had, just my inconvenience. If my prior post came off as pointing the finger at anyone with a legitimate reason for pulling their child, that wasn't my intent. You know you've done the right thing, and I wasn't trying to judge you for it. But if it came off that I am scolding those parents that mooched two years of "free" (everything has a cost!) pre-school without ever intending to send their child to TFS for kindergarten, even though they signed a contract saying they would do so, then that's exactly what I meant to do. I have talked to parents who flat-out said they were going to do that. Doing so makes you a liar, hurts the school and isn't fair to the families whose spots you took.
Tim Fioravanti August 26, 2012 at 02:28 AM
Christine - my sentiments exactly! Although my wife and I did not need to send our children to TFS, we did so for the very reasons that you pointed out. We also sent them there for the multicultural component. There are many benefits to the Waterford kids. BREE - If you have questions about the who what and why of its existence and its benefits, by all means - ask those questions! You will (or should) get good answers. If we did not think that TFS would benefit our kids (that are children of two teachers) we would not have sent them there. It is a GREAT school with very dedicated professionals that TEACH and give these students the tools necessary to be successful both academically and socially. Bravo to all that are involved in making this school a great success and well worth the funding provided by both communities!
Beth P August 28, 2012 at 12:35 PM
My son attended the Friendship School and my husband and I thought it was a fantastic school. However, now that Waterford offers full day kindergarden, we are struggling with whether or not to apply to the Friendship School since I'd rather she only attended for preschool. Has the administration discussed making the Friendship School preschool only, at least for Waterford?
Louge August 28, 2012 at 03:47 PM
It was my understanding that the TFS request asking children stay for kindergarten was waived if the student gained lottery admission to the Regional Multicultural Magnet School or was to attend a parochial school. "Pulling students out" seems to be a problem for the Waterford School system. These policies need to be more clear upon entering the school. As taxpayers and residents, you cannot deny a Waterford resident from attending a Waterford school. The Friendship School is governed by LEARN. I think it is a bit harsh to be throwing parents "under the bus" for lacking integrity if their child attends a kindergarten program elsewhere. Many of these "parents" of which you speak spent volunteer hours at the school, donated their time, talent and treasure to help make the school a better place. For many, it was not a case of a "free ride," rather, some had to make a difficult decision of what worked best for their families. In some countries children are not granted a public school education. Sending your child to different schools locally is no sacrifice, it is a gift to be granted choices. A sacrifice is walking five miles to the river because you have no water.

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