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October 14, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, October 14, 2005

Parents and teachers work to bring PACT to Castro Parents and teachers work to bring PACT to Castro (October 14, 2005)

By Molly Tanenbaum

Among the many challenges that come with Slater Elementary's closure, teachers, parents and administrators must ease the transition of the PACT program -- a parent involvement alternative school currently housed at Slater -- to Castro Elementary School.

"There are going to be growing pains. The question is how we will make the programs coexist," said Baird Nuckolls, a parent with two daughters enrolled in PACT.

During a meeting of PACT and Castro parents and teachers on Oct. 5, one theme continually arose: how to bring PACT to the new school without making students and parents feel there are any inequalities in the education provided.

"I think it's going to be one of the biggest obstacles in coming together," said Castro parent Christy Tonge. "I think we need to manage the perception of inequities."

According to Nuckolls, the most obvious difference between PACT and equivalent programs at Castro -- specifically the Dual Immersion and Neighborhood programs -- is its Arts Focus curriculum. PACT students attend a total of 45 hours of parent-taught art classes in three and a half hour chunks, resulting in the opportunity to create more artwork, Nuckolls said.

To balance out this inequity, however, PACT donates the art hours that it would normally receive from the Community School of Music and Arts to the rest of the school, Nuckolls said.

"I'm hoping that, through the process of integration, we can contribute to programs that are already at Castro and enrich those programs the way they want to be enriched," she said.

An additional concern arose during the meeting: parents wondered if PACT would be affected by entering a Program Improvement school. If Castro does not raise its test scores this year to meet federal No Child Left Behind standards, it will become a Year 3 Program Improvement school and will need to hire an outside administrator to make changes there.

The answer is no, said Slater and PACT Principal Nicki Smith in a phone interview. According to Smith, the outside administrator will most likely work specifically with students in need of improvement.

"PACT kids are fine," she said.

Parents and teachers will meet two more times to develop strategies to integrate PACT alongside Castro's programs without compromising their differing philosophies and curricula. Their recommendations will be presented to the board of trustees later this year.

Considering the difficult time experienced last spring by Slater and Castro parents, teachers and students, Tonge has been impressed by how well parents and teachers in the subcommittee were working together to make a smooth transition possible.

"Both PACT and Castro are collaborating so beautifully," Tonge said.

The integration subcommittee is one of five designed to tackle all aspects of the imminent closure of Slater school, from drawing new boundaries to moving logistics to preserving Slater traditions.

E-mail Molly Tanenbaum at [email protected]

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