Holly Pringle, Sartell
After reading the Newsleader on May 10, I couldn’t help but be saddened by the letter written by Melissa Pickens regarding our schools and her experiences here.
Like Pickens, I moved to Sartell with small children, and my primary reason for doing so was the schools. That was back in 2003. Unlike Pickens, I haven’t been disappointed at all with my choice. I think it’s one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
My children attended Pine Meadow Elementary and were cared for, taught and nurtured by some of the most amazing men and women I could have hoped for (in small classes where no one was allowed to “slip through the cracks” and with teachers and staff who held my kids accountable for their learning and communicated with me constantly). I was sad when they “graduated” and had to leave PME, but my kids have also had great experiences with great teachers at the middle school, and I expect the same when my daughter enters high school next year. If issues ever arise, administration at both buildings listen, respond promptly and I feel like they know my kids (not because my children get into trouble, but because the administration and staff make the effort to know the kids). My son and daughter have thrived here educationally and socially, and I am so thankful.
Pickens’s first argument against our schools is about money and being “nickel and dimed” . . . but it doesn’t hold water. You will pay for before- and after-school care in any district around here, and Kidstop rates are the same in all of central Minnesota. School lunch prices are relatively the same everywhere as well. Our school-supply lists look much like those in neighboring districts (and I’m pretty sure my friends in Sauk Rapids are expected to buy more than we do). My kids went on TONS of field trips while at PME, and I don’t think I ever spent a dime for them. As far as kindergarten tuition, I hope someday Sartell will put all-day-kindergarten up on a levy question for the voters, because it would be awesome if we could send all kids with no cost to parents. Some districts have (very recently) begun to fund (usually via a tax increase) all-day-every-day kindergarten, but it’s still a choice here, and if you choose it, you need to pay for it (because the state doesn’t fund it like it should, but I digress . . .). Incidentally, I think the cost for kindergarten here must have gone down, because my kids were all-day kids in 2004 and 2007, and I paid about $3,000 for it then. Maybe Sartell is subsidizing some of it now?
I understand working full-time has made it hard for Pickens to get to know people here. I work full-time and 30 miles away, so I get it. It makes things more challenging. I’m also sorry Pickens feels people here are mean, cliquey, snobby or unfriendly. Some people are, but that seems to be true of many places; Sartell isn’t unique in that. As a “middle-class person” myself, it’s sometimes easy to feel more like “lower class” in Sartell, because there are a lot of well-to-do people here and I can understand and empathize with where some of her feelings come from. The older my kids get, the more I realize they don’t have what some of their friends do. I had to learn to get over it, and so did my kids. I like to think we’re better for it. There are certainly groups here that are exclusive, whether that’s based on income or neighborhoods or sports teams, but those groups are not the majority. Have I met snobs here? Sure. Have I met many great, friendly, down-to-earth people at school functions, through sports or other activities? Yes. It saddens me that after just one year, Pickens is so ready to paint us all with the same brush.
It’s unfortunate Pickens has had such a frustrating experience securing pre-school help and speech assessment for her youngest child. I hope they are able to work that out somehow, so he gets the help he needs to be ready for kindergarten.
I am sorry Pickens’s kindergartener has to switch schools next year, especially since he has made friends. I’m not sure why she’s so upset about the move though, since she doesn’t have anything nice to say about PME other than that they have good teachers. Isn’t that sort of the backbone of the school? The staff? What about PME is bad then? And if it’s bad, then she should be happy to be moving to Oak Ridge. Boundary changes and enrollment changes have happened a few times in Sartell due to our community growth and pockets of expansion, and I know it’s frustrating. I also know the district tries very hard to keep as many people happy as they can when they have to make these shifts. You can’t very well have one school bursting at the seams when another has empty classrooms. It would be irresponsible and unfair.
In all, I’m just sorry for Pickens and her family and her perception that so many things here are wrong. I’m afraid if she tried out any of the other districts around here, she might find the same things. Kids cost money. Education costs money. Some people aren’t nice. And sometimes, we don’t get our way.