For parents like Don and Michelle Kraines, ensuring that your child is being challenged academically can sometimes be, well, a challenge. The Kraines are a part of a group called SPACE, or Scotia-Glenville Parents Advocating for Challenging Education, is holding an informational session for parents this month as a way to let parents know they can actively take part in giving their children educational opportunities.
We are what the booster club is to sports, Kraines said. "We are a group of parents who want to support our children through giving them every chance to learn and grow. We look to see how we as parents can work together with the district to improve on academic programs."
The school district has in fact listened to the concerns of parents of academically successful students and responded with a program called OPAL, or Opportunities and Programs for Advanced Learners. OPAL is an academic enrichment program for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The goal of OPAL is to promote self-esteem as they work on advanced material with interdisciplinary approaches to solve challenging problems or develop high-level skills. Each building in the district has its own OPAL Study team, which is composed of teachers and administrators who work to identify students who qualify for OPAL. A referral is then sent home to parents asking if they are interested in having their child in the program.
Kraines said OPAL is something that will be discussed at the SPACE meeting. She said many new parents are unaware of the specifics of programs like OPAL and that the meeting gives them an opportunity to ask questions. She said the district's curriculum director, Joe Kavanaugh, has assisted SPACE parents.
Kavanaugh organized forums for parents last year to introduce the OPAL program.
"Offering advanced courses and challenging opportunities is very important to our district, and we want parents to know that. We want parents to know they don't necessarily need to look outside our district if they have an academically gifted child," said Kavanaugh.