Charter School made a difference

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To the Editor:On June 3, our son, Keith Chatinover, will graduate from Martha’s Vineyard Public Charter School. It is with very heavy hearts that we close this chapter. Keith’s experience there has been a life changer.

From his first visit to the school in fourth grade, when Bob Moore took the time to meet with Keith and talk all things baseball, Keith wanted to go to MVPCS. It was in sixth grade that a slot finally opened. What our family experienced over the next seven years as part of the Charter School community has been nothing short of amazing.

Frankly, when Keith first started, we didn’t know what to make of this small school where everyone goes by their first name, debate is encouraged, and traditional strict discipline is not a priority. But we opened our minds and quickly learned what a true treasure we had found.

Project-based learning? MVPCS doesn’t just speak it, they live it. In sixth grade, Keith went to upstate Vermont in February to sleep in a stove-heated cabin (complete with outhouse) and work in a soup kitchen. That was followed by trips to Italy, Spain, Costa Rica, and Cuba. These trips were on shoestring budgets, all designed to fully integrate the students into the local communities. Keith’s independent projects were also encouraged — from mapping out the schedule and cost of attending a game in every Major League Baseball park to walking and reporting on many of the Martha’s Vineyard trails.

But what makes MVPCS truly special is their recognition that every single child is unique, with different learning styles and motivations. MVPCS teachers and staff work hard to figure out and encourage each child to be their best. From DC standing on the desks and drilling in that she believes in you, so you should believe in yourself to Marie letting you sit in her office to read the New York Times to catch up on the news around the world, to Matt in the kitchen making a special batch of corn muffins because he knows they’re your favorite — each child is treated with respect and encouragement.

And yes, MVPCS has been academically challenging — again rising to the needs of the individual child. No AP courses? Let’s collaborate to create one. Let’s encourage kids to do their own online learning on topics they love, with help where needed. Let’s get creative. Let’s set the bar to something that is a stretch, but achievable. Keith has emerged from the school as a writer, reader, and problem solver. And most important, Keith has become a lifelong learner, and is ready to head to college.

Keith would not be the community advocate he is today without the daily encouragement from the teachers and administration at MVPCS. And much of this centers on teachers like Jonah who embrace dialogue and inspire debate. Students are encouraged to research varying viewpoints so they can formulate their own opinions. Students are supported in their efforts to make a difference — within the school, within the Martha’s Vineyard community, and beyond.

I think back to that Friday a few years ago when I happened to be in the school for morning meeting and all the students were singing a song that I carry in my heart. High schoolers were twirling around the younger kids; teachers and students were spontaneously dancing. Bob stood there with the biggest smile. Yes, Bob Marley, every little thing IS gonna be all right.

We will miss you all and are forever grateful.

Jonathan Chatinover and Beth O’Connor
Edgartown