Counselors Will Teach From The Heart

My daughter just graduated from high school, and as her father, I can tell you it was an exhilarating yet bittersweet experience for me. I’m sure every parent of adult children knows what I mean.

My daughter attended Centennial High School in Fort Collins. She loved it there and excelled, earning excellent grades, helping to produce the yearbook, as well as participating in other school activities, and having been twice recognized by the faculty as a Star Student.

The Six Ps

She often came home from school and talked about the school’s “six Ps”, sometimes describing what a difference they made in the school’s culture, as compared with that of Fort Collins High School, which she’d attended before attending Centennial, and sometimes complaining about students who didn’t follow them.

The six Ps encode Centennial’s expecations for students: Prompt, Prepared, Polite, Positive mental attitude, Produce and Participate. But more than that, according to my daughter, adhering to the six Ps fostered learning, acceptance of others and the creation of a school environment where she belonged. That school environment made such a positive impact on her that she signed up for pre-calculus. I’d been telling her that calculus was better and easier than algebra, and so, even though math was her worse subject, at Centennial she decided to try out calculus.

Still, Centennial’s reputation in Fort Collins is a colored one. Centennial is an alternative high school. It’s intended for students who don’t fit in or don’t suceed in a conventional setting. In other words, Centennial serves problem students, which puts off many. My daughter was never a problem student, as such, but she definitely didn’t fit in at Fort Collins High School. For example – unbelievably – teachers at Fort Collins High School marked her absent from class when she was sitting at her desk. Bullies picked on her daily because she was short and wore alternative clothes.

In the video above you hear Sebbi Garcia singing her “Student Response” at this year’s Centennial commencement. I asked my daughter about Sebbi, and she said with respect, Sebbi was great in class when she was there. Sebbi’s song, which I hope you’ll listen to, presents a celebration of the best that Centennial’s students and staff accomplish.So, should you or your student attend Centennial High School? Here’s my answer based on what I’ve seen of the school and what my family experienced:

My Real Thoughts…

Fair enough, but what do I really think?

There’s a price to pay for attending a public school that offers students tiny class sizes and personalized attention to individual student needs, quirks and personalities. That price comes in two currencies: (1) Irrelvance of the student’s family to the school’s delivery of education; and (2) Ejection of the student from the school upon completion of the Colorado minimum requirements for high school graduation.

First, the student’s family and its structure carry no standing in Centennial’s delivery of education services. Our family includes two households, between which my daughter has lived since she was very young. Since my daughter was very young, she’s been at my house during the week and her mother’s on the weekends. The Poudre School District – in general – isn’t set up to accomodate the student who has two households, which is a systemic problem that the district needs to address, but up until my daughter attended Centennial, her elementary school and junior high school, as well as Fort Collins High School, found ways to include both my daughter’s mother and myself in school communications and the scheduling of meetings. Centennial made no effort to do so, despite my daughter’s mother and myself both presenting ourselves at school functions and speaking with and meeting with school administrators and teachers. Specifically, I am shocked that Centennial’s school psychologist did not inform me of my daughter’s annual IEP meeting. “One parent was there”, the school psychologist blithely told me, when I spoke with her many months later about my omission from the meeting. The psychologist and the Principal took no responsiblity for correcting the oversight (although they did offer to hold a repeat meeting just for me). I suspect parents of Centennial students are often viewed as being irrelevant to the student’s success at the school. (Because, if the parents were a positive influence in the student’s life, the student wouldn’t be at Centennial, right?). In our family, the school communicated with the parent who happened to have paid the majority of the school fee, which we were late in coming up with in full.

Second, the school pushes students out the door the instant they complete their minimum requirements for high school graduation.