I would like to file a complaint against Carrollwood Day School (CDS) where my child attended Kindergarten during the past school year. I have several concerns about the way we have been treated as parents and about the promises made and not kept by the school administrators. Would you be able to inform me what your process is regarding submitting such complaints, and who I should reach out to. I have tried to reach out to Mr. Ryan Kelly, the Head of the School, but he is not willing to meet with me and hear my concerns. Instead of meeting with me and addressing my concerns he has told me that I am no longer allowed to the campus or to email him or any of his staff as I am harassing and intimidating him. This is unbelievable considering that I have never treated him or anyone in his staff with disrecpect. I have heard from other parents who have been treated in a similar manned and being escorted out of community meetings where they expressed concerns or even being subjected to extortion by the school. During a recent fundraising event, the school auctioned special privileges to students whose parents were willing to pay for them. They sold private parking spots to high school students for $20,000 a spot and rights to be the first in the pick up line to pick up one’s child from school for around $16,000. These are just a few examples of what was auctioned. This makes one wonder how much a grade “A” in the class would cost? | My concern relates to the lack of support provided by the school and their unwillingness to collaborate with us as parents in order to assist my child. When I initially inquired about CDS and met with the Early Childhood Center Principal Ellen Nafe, I expressed concerns that my child was very young and only met the cut off age for kindergarten entrance by one week. During the VPK at another school, it was expressed to us by teachers that he was still somewhat immature. I explained that we had previously considered enrolling him to the Academy at the Lakes where they have a junior and senior kindergarten system, and that I was not interested in having my child to go through two years of kindergarten. I was assured by Ellen Nafe that CDS was equipped to deal with this issue so that two years of kindergarten was not necessary. This was our biggest concern and the main reason we selected CDS as the school for our children. Yet, at the very first teacher-parent conference the teacher stated that she was concerned that our son would need to repeat kindergarten. This was only after three weeks of Teddy attending there so she would obviously not have had the opportubity to properly assess him yet. We, as parents, immediately asked what we could do to help and how we could team up and partner with her to help our son and to prevent a repeat of the kindergarten year. No communication or help was provided and the school administrators continued to assert that they, as the ultimate experts, felt that our child was perceived to be too immature for the 1st grade. They did not provide any academic reasoning or evidence, nor a due process for us to appeal their decision. Our concerns were not heard as parents and we were specifically told that we should not listen to any other experts or opinions than those of theirs’ as they were the “ultimate experts.” We were told to ignore any and all research on this issue. Our child is an interracial child and we even brought up a concern of a possible racial bias since it is well documented that colored children tend to be seen as less mature than white children in kindergartens around the country. We suspected this since no other explanations were given to us. | It seems very likely that we were treated in this manner because we are an interracial family and because I am from Helsinki, Finland. The school presents itself as a character developing institution but yet the representatives of the school do not show humbleness and critical thinking themselves and act as role models. My child came home from school telling us that he had been told that he was not as good as other students due to his skin color. He also came home talking about death and telling us that he was told by a teacher that boys can marry boys, and that he therefore wanted to marry his brother. While I am personally not against men marrying men, at this point it is illegal in the state of Florida and I do not think that topics like this should be discussed in kindergarten. | Our child was allowed to attend the kindergarten graduation ceremony where he was at the stage with other children and let to believe that he had graduated kindergarten. He told us speficially that his teacher had told him that he would be going to the 1st grade. However, the very next day we were told that this was not the case and that the school had made a decision to not promote him although previously they had told us in a meeting that this was only their recommendation and not a mandate. During the meeting that we were told that he would not be welcome to the 1st grade, we were told that he was academically ready and that he was a very “bright child.” However, the teacher and the principal did not “feel” that he was mature enough to handle the 1st grade. At the same time, it was acknowledged that he showed no signs of psychosocial challenges or cognitive learning disorders of any kind. The only evidence that we were provided were examples of how our child did not always complete his “morning routine” as requested. This involved signing his name and placing his folder to a required place. Regardless of our many requests, the school refused to send us examples of work that our child failed in or frequent updates of his progress. We were told that he preferred to play rather than learn. We find this quite amazing and it us not unusua at all for a 5 year old to prefer playing to learning, and many experts state that this is, indeed, what a healthy child should be doing. The only assessment that was performed was a flawed paired comparison comparing our son to a female student was older than our son and who has been in this same school and taken the same assessment instrument twice before. Even using this invalid assessment tool the differences where not significant and convinving. | My concerns are focused on the behavior of the administrators at CDS. The teacher of our child has been the only one willing to hear us out and express true concern for our child, although at the same time she is the one who also perceives our child as immature and states that she is powerless as this is the way it is at CDS (I am not using her name here as I value her confidentiality and the fact that she is only doing what the instution she works for mandates). She has assured to us that she understands our perspective and even seems to agree with the basic argument that a perceived lack of maturity is not a suitable reason for retention when a child is otherwise academically capable. She has shared with us that she had the same issue with her own child but then again her child is going to this same school without paying tution since she is a teacher there so our situations are not the same. I shared with her my experience growing up and going to school in Finland, where students are not expected to read or write before age 7, and where until then they are expected to learn through play. As is well known, Finland has the world leading educational system and CDS advertises their IB model to be consistent with this European model. However, the administrators of CDS have dismissed my concerns and shown no willingness to work with us as parents to help our child in this regard. I feel that this is inexcusable given that the school charges a very high tuition and they make promises about individual attention given to children and about paying attention to parents’ desires and opinions. I feel that the promises made prior to us enrolling our children were made to earn our tuition payments but not made in good faith and with intentions to follow thought with what was promised. This is misleading and represents unethical admissions practices. I further think that the retention policies of CDS support the financial gain of the school rather than the educational needs of the children. By having our child repeating the kindergarten, the school will earn additional tuition revenue. The cost of this is not only financial to us as parents but damaged self-esteem of our child. Extensive research exists to warn about retaining children at kindergarten age and the potential damage of these practices to the children’s well-being including their self-esteem. There is categorically no evidence to support that retained children would be any better off academically than those who are promoted by the 3rd year of elementary school. Significant amount of evidence supports the fact that children reach maturity at different ages and that academically they catch up, and are even benefiting from being among older children when promoted. Retaining a child under the circumstances such as with our son is totally unwarranted and unreasonable, and unacceptable. It is not supported by known research and not what was promised to use when we enrolled our son at CDS. They made explicit verbal promises and gave explicit warranties. Yet, they violated these warranties and violated contract law. | We have wasted a year of our child’s academic career and thousands of dollars trusting CDS and what they promised (this school charges a tuition of over $10,000 per child for an academic year). We have tried to reach out to them for a year to try to work with them to help our son without collaboration from their part. I would like to have an opportunity to further elaborate and express my deep disappointed with CDS and file a formal complaint against them. The Head of the School, Ryan Kelly, told me that CDS does not report to the Department of Education and that none of the accrediting agencies would hear me out and would only direct me to him as the CEO. However, he is not willing to hear from me and give my concern a fair and objective consideration. Is this really how kindergarten experience should be in an independent private school like CDS? Are parents powerless and without due process to appeal school’s decisions? Is there truly no oversight at all as Ryan Kelly states!
Carrollwood Day School