I’m a proud parent of two Compass School kids. It’s a little charter school in Rhode Island. The school has two missions that attracted me to the place, environmental protection and social responsibility. Teaching kids to care about their planet and how to respect other people’s humanity. At Compass there’s a place at the table for everyone. This charter is no easy task. I believe, like our country, there are a few steps forward and a couple steps back, but always there is the hope to be better.
I’ve been a parent of the school for ten years. My youngest little cherub will graduate this year and with that, will come the end of my tenure at compass. My take away will be the profoundly wonderful parents and staff I’ve met along the way and a true involvement in volunteerism. Volunteering for a school is volunteering for your community. When I began at the school, there was literally a patch of dirt with some trailers for classrooms. When we’d go to the principal with an idea, he’d say go do it. That was always the answer. There was no funding and there wasn’t anyone to take up a task. If you wanted to see something happen at this school, you’d better roll up your sleeves. Finding the other parents with the same passion sincerely changed me. There were about ten of us and we got stuff done. It could be literally painting the exterior of buildings, creating a fair to earn a couple dollars to introduce after school electives, creating a playground, erecting greenhouses, doing yardwork on weekends, manifesting a biodiversity garden and finally real buildings that will stay firmly put on Compass soil for decades to come. There are many of us who feel connected to this place through true sweat equity.
There have been 4 principals in my ten year stay. Think about that. That is not stable. It made for some seriously rocky years, but while that worked itself out, the teachers carried on as if nothing had ever happened. God bless ’em. Six years ago we got a new principal and she is in it for the long haul. You can trust that when the principal is willing to send their own kids to the school. I think of her as a golden retriever pit bull. Most people see the retriever, but look under the hood. She is all pit bull :) I mean this in a good way. She has faced a school system that hates charter schools and a school without buildings. It doesn’t sound too much like a school, but under her administration we have truly flourished.
Six years ago this brand new principal called me into her office and said “I hear you might be able to help me make a vision board”. What? I said. The principal wanted to have a vision board at a vision night where she could guide the parents from where we are to where we want to go. The idea was to have a pen and ask each parent to write a wish for the school and over the years we could see which wishes came true. Talk about the power of some positive thinking, I have seen some amazing accomplishes come to pass.
Here are the past 6 years of visions of the school. Ms. Brandee the principal sends me an email every year “Can you draw the addition of new lockers? How about a couple acres of walking paths? A soccer field? Swing set? Farm stand? Gaga ball court? Lavender labyrinth? Financial funding for a new building? A family dance? Goats? Sheep? Cows? Basketball? Excavating machinery? Cement mixers??? That all sounds well and good, but how in the heck do you incorporate such large ideas into a small piece of paper? Dear me, it’s enough to send an artist to the looney bin. Based on my anxiety alone! But slowly over the last few years, I’ve figured it out. Slowly. I bet if you gave me another ten years I might nail it ;)
Do I need to say anything more? Forget any real accomplishments like renovating a giant barn which now fits a middle school. None of us have even seen it because of the pandemic. I got the phone call to make a vision board for a vision event that won’t even happen this year. “Could I add some sails that we are using for outdoor classrooms? How about a laptop showing our virtual school? The kids have really enjoyed harvesting the gourds this year…”
Gourds? Gourds? Ahhhhhhh!!!!!!!!
Yes. I have been visually tasked with summing up school during the COVID 19 pandemic. Can I go back to bed? I say that a lot these days. Can I go back to bed and hopefully wake up a year from now? And would it be too much to ask that all my loved ones still be alive with me? …….GOSH!
Well, my solution to any problem I’d like to avoid is humor. I always start there. So for this painting. I started with our good ole Rhode Island Red chickens. They are the only animals left on campus due to the pandemic. Instantly I could envision the chickens running by with masks.
Now… A steaming comet of Covid hitting the school? That might be memorable? How can I leave a reminder of all the crazy rules? A building sized sanitizer bottle? I’m sorry. As much as we’d all like to forget the terrible political season of 2020. I’m pretty sure we will be talking about this one for decades. In fact the school had to double-down on “social responsibility” to remind kids that every person and every family are entitled to their thoughts and beliefs and we all need to work on respect and acceptance… what a nightmare and “great teachable moment” of course :) Some other chuckles are a 6ft tape measure and gourds. You have to love kids. During all this mayhem, they still love the GOURDS!!!!
I’m not sure I needed to create a visual reminder of 2020. I’m pretty sure this year, for anyone who lived it, both young and old, has been unforgettable. But for the kindergarten class that will be graduating 9 years from now, who will be standing exactly where my family stands this year, hopefully they can look back and chuckle.