The people running the school seem to have their hearts in the right place, with their emphasis on students' feelings, promoting self-esteem, and so on. Making these things so central to an elementary school curriculum certainly would not appeal to everyone, but since this is a choice program, it's great that there is a school that can provide these things to families who believe in such an approach.
What I found surprising was the caginess on the part of the school representatives during the question and answer session. Given the school's emphasis on "trust" and the implicit respect for honesty and truth, I would expect heartfelt, straightforward responses to parents' concerns.
Two examples stick out in my mind. One parent asked how many applicants there were to Ohlone this past year--certainly an innocuous, fair question.
The answer: we cannot tell you. First of all, I can't understand why this is such secret information in the first place. Second of all, if the school doesn't want to reveal too much, in the spirit of "trust" and honesty, couldn't they just say something like, "We don't like to provide the exact numbers because [whatever their reasons are], but I can tell you that in some years there have been as many as X applicants and as few as Y applicants, though it's impossible to predict what will happen in any given year."
Such a response would have at least acknowledged the parent's concerns and provided some context for the probability of getting in without revealing exact numbers. But providing no information at all was kind of jarring. It seemed uncomfortably like a politician stonewalling. Very strange after hearing for an hour about the school's concern for everyone's feelings and being supportive.
The second example was their talking about a brief essay that parents have to write when applying to the program that should describe why the parent wants their child to attend. When asked about this, they provided contradictory answers, alternating between saying that this essay does not matter at all and is merely just a way to encourage parents to formulate their own thoughts while minutes later saying that it actually did matter in that it was a way that the school could determine whether or not the parents' reasons for applying were consistent with the school's philosophy.
Why not just come out and say yes, the essay is one of the criteria we consider and just leave it at that. Why the need to confuse matters by saying it doesn't matter at all and that it's just for the parents themselevs? Again, this seemed like an uncomfortable kind of double-talk that I didn't really expect in this setting.
We know lots of Ohlone families, and they have been thrilled with their experience there. I think being in touch with feelings, self-esteem, and getting along with each other are laudable objectives, and the more children who can achieve these things the better. Like I said, I think Ohlone's heart is in the right place. I hope that in the future they can be less evasive and more straightforward when dealing with parents' questions. Doing so would be more consistent with their core values and would give prospective parents a better impression of the school.
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