Gov. Newsom: Don't Take THRIVE Away From 1,000 Kids #saveTHRIVE

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We, the parents, families, and surrounding community of Thrive Public Schools, ask Governor Newsom to please fill the State Board of Education vacancies and bring the Thrive Public School charter renewal back for reassessment.

We recently went to the State Board of Education to seek renewal. For the board to make a decision to approve or deny, 6 votes on one side or the other are required. On the day of our renewal request, only 7 members were present and only 6 voted. 3 seats are vacant, 1 person was absent, and 1 person abstained from the vote. With a 2-4 vote, no decision was made. We feel these numbers greatly impacted the result and due to the lack of decision or action by the SBE, Thrive deserves to be reheard by a full board.

Thrive Public Schools has been serving the children and community of San Diego so well that they have continued to grow each year, now serving kids on four campuses across the city. Being a charter school, every child and family is here by choice. Children and families who were not being well served or could not find an appropriate fit within their neighborhood schools have found a home at Thrive. Thrive provides a safe, caring, and effective environment for our children to grow educationally and emotionally, learning to be college prepared, career inspired, and community minded.

The local San Diego Unified School Board voted to deny the Thrive petition for a charter, however being that the children of Thrive are coming primarily from the San Diego Unified School District (SDUSD), that is a bit like asking UCLA to vote if it's students should attend Stanford instead. The School Board and other opponents will state that Thrive’s CAASPP test scores were not adequate. Much like you cannot judge the quality of a fitness program by the health of the people entering the program, you cannot judge the effectiveness of Thrive by the large population entering the school each year. If anything, the test scores are a reflection of the SDUSD schools these children have been fleeing to come to Thrive. 80 percent of Thrive students come to the school behind on grade-level performance in reading, math, or both. Further, the families of Thrive will tell you that the full educational, emotional, and social benefits that Thrive is providing us cannot be properly reflected in a few data points on a chart based on a single test method.

The inaction of the SBE has left hundreds of families with no positive choices for their children’s education. Many of the SDUSD schools the Thrive children would be forced to return to are performing below the state guidelines, most charter schools are on a wait list, and the quality choice in schools have acceptance rates lower than top colleges. More than 20 SDUSD schools themselves have filed grievances with the school district for failure to meet the special education resources needed to properly serve their existing students; an area that Thrive has proven to be very successful. Thrive serves a student population that is 18 percent special needs, twice the school average in California. How will these children be served? Thrive families deserve the right to choose the best quality education they can find for their children. The Thrive Public School petition for renewal deserves to be heard by a full SBE board.

Below you can find just a few stories from our families of why they love Thrive, why they have chosen to leave their neighborhood public schools, and why we are asking the SBE to approve the Thrive charter.

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Hi, my name is Stacy and I have three children who attend Thrive. Olivia, Harrison, and Dennis are all significantly impacted by Angelman Syndrome which causes global development delays and affects all aspects of their lives. Their biggest barrier is that they have complex communication needs which means they are unable to talk verbally.  They all need alternative augmentative communication methods, specialized academic instruction and a one to one academic coach. Thrive is more than meeting the bare minimum for my kids; my children are excelling here. If Thrive wasn't here, my children would have nowhere to go. Other charter schools with similar programs are full with a long wait list. Traditional school options here in San Diego have not worked for them. My children have already made many connections and friendships at Thrive; we are looking forward to continuing through high school with them. Please vote to continue our charter. Thrive is a community that not only welcomes us, but embraces us. Thank you.
 

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Lucas was in the first Kindergarten class at Thrive. He had Mrs. Vasko. Lucas loved learning at Thrive. The project based learning was right up his ally. Lucas enjoyed sharing all he learned at Exhibition. We got very Lucky because Lucas got to stay with Mrs. Vasko all the way through 2nd grade. 
When we moved to El Cajon we had to take Lucas out of Thrive because we couldn’t make it work with the commute and our shift work. My husband and I are both Air Traffic Controllers and we have complex schedules. We had to put Lucas in our neighborhood school because we couldn’t get into any of the local charters in El Cajon.
Our experience in the El Cajon school district was very disappointing. Lucas began to fall farther behind academically. When I tried to meet with teachers to get help but they would just show me his incomplete worksheets and tell me he was lazy. Lucas would come home crying thinking he was stupid. This absolutely broke my heart. Lucas asked me if he could go back to Thrive. “Thrive is my home Mom.” Were his exact words. 
My husband and I decided to reach out to Thrive. We were about halfway through 4th grade so I was doubtful that they would have room. I emailed Mrs. Assisi and she got back to me immediately. She told me that of course they remember Lucas and they would do anything to make room for him. We sold our home in El Cajon and moved closer to the Thrive campuses. A couple days later Mrs. Vasko reached out to us. We were able to get into the Juanita campus. Mrs. Vasko even made a special trip out to show us around and introduce Lucas to his new friends and reunite him with some of his old friends.
Since being back at Thrive his teachers and leadership have gone above and beyond to develop a personal plan to help Lucas get his academics up to grade level. We hold monthly meetings and Lucas’s confidence has improved tremendously. I can’t imagine what we will do if Thrive is taken from us. Thrive is more than a school, it is our home.

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We came to Thrive after three years in our neighborhood public school. The overall tone for the last year at our neighborhood school was set by the teacher and her aids regularly degrading the entire class and using humiliation as a form of discipline for individual kids. Even worse was the lack of learning occurring in the classroom. I was informed by the teacher that she was teaching to a grade level below because there were so many kids behind. On the rare occasion there was new material, my daughter would come home and ask me to teach her the topic because she couldn’t hear the teacher over the other kids and she wanted to learn. The teacher, herself, would regularly leave the class crying. By the end of the year my daughter regularly begged to stay home each morning and cried each evening.The administration did little to address the parents’ concerns with this. In fact, after my daughter tested into the seminar level GATE, I inquired what they were doing to support the kids who needed more advanced lessons. I was told nothing because “the school can’t be sued for not providing them adequate support”. We are so thankful we found Thrive. Our children are being challenged, their educational and emotional needs are well taken care of. I asked my daughter at the start of the year if she felt like she was learning here, to which she exclaimed "I'm learning so much"! We love it here! Please don't take this opportunity from us.  

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I am a retired Navy Commander with 28 years of service and the proud parent of a Thrive 5th grade student.  My son ended up at Thrive as the result of a negative experience in, what is considered to be a highly sought after public school in the San Diego area.  However, for Oliver, being in a cookie cutter, one-size fits all system didn’t work and the administration didn’t seem to care.  Thus, he was enrolled in Thrive.  The impact of the social/emotional learning model was immediate and powerful.  Within just a few weeks there was a notable rise in his self-esteem and confidence.  Now in his second year with Thrive, I am proud that he is the 5th grade President of the Associated Student Body. 

Oliver has also been impacted by his classmates.  Surrounded by kids that come from under-served neighborhoods and failing public school systems, he has become a more aware human being.  He’s learned to have a greater appreciation for what he has because he’s surrounded by children who are in need.  In fact, on one occasion Oliver gave his lunch away to a student who had none.  He has truly been touched. 

Additionally, Oliver is an outstanding student now where he struggled before.  His affinity and understanding of math is incredible.  His creativity is beyond compare.  Last night I challenged him to invent something, anything and he came up with the newly designed garbage can.   What was truly fantastic about this was his understanding and implementation of processes.  From the thought, to planning, to resource allocation, to design and finally production was less than one hour.  This is proof that Thrive is changing the way kids think.  They become confident, resourceful, and complex thinkers.  I am truly proud of him. I am an unshakable believer in the mission that Thrive is executing.

The staff at Thrive has all the hallmarks of a high-functioning, high-energy organization.  As it is with high-energy organizations, Thrive staff members always look to improve even though they are already extremely successful.  There is an air of enthusiasm that you feel when on campus.  This enthusiasm has given hope to parents who are out of hope because the local public school has already failed them.  

Overcrowded and under-performing, as is evident by the in testing that is being held against Thrive when it is really proof that I am not simply throwing around “failing public school system” for dramatic effect.  The fact is, that over time these students have shown greatly improved scores after just one year.  As with my son, I’ve personally witnessed the changes in student behavior over time.  They all start to exhibit a confidence and self-esteem that will afford them much greater chances of success in this world.

So how is it that the public school system, that these kids come from, isn’t being confronted with the proof that they are not performing to standards set by our school administration?  Thrive has been awarded GETTING SMART’s 101 Top School and Charter Networks award for Personalized Learning Innovators.  Thrive was recognized in the LA SCHOOL REPORT for its outstanding work and innovation.  Thrive is saving lives where lives are being forgotten.  Please put politics aside and think about the children and families that have made the choice to become a part of the Thrive family. 

I beg you to keep THRIVE OPEN.  Do the right thing for these children! Please!

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