In celebration of National School Choice Week (Jan. 21-27, 2018), we invited charter school parents across Michigan tell their stories of school-choice success. Meet Karen Dumas, a mom who has two children who have attended The Chatfield School, a K-8 charter school in Lapeer.
How many children do you have at Chatfield?
I have two children. My daughter Ella is currently in sixth grade at Chatfield. My son Jack attended Chatfield, graduating from eighth grade in 2016.
How did you come to find Chatfield and why did you decide to enroll your children there?
My son Jack was getting ready to start first grade and I was unsure where to send him to school. He had been attending a Montessori for two years and seemed to thrive in this environment. I was looking for a school that would be able to continue to provide a curriculum that was engaging and hands-on.
A friend had recommended that I look into The Chatfield School, a public charter school in Lapeer that her son attended. It seemed too good to be true! Open classrooms, exploratory classes, beautiful gardens, an outdoor learning space and a new ecology center - but most importantly, it was a school focused on relationships. I quickly filled out the application to add Jack to the lottery process and was so excited when he landed a spot.
Why has Chatfield been such a great fit for your children?
Chatfield has been such a great fit for my children because it’s not just a school – it’s a family. The directors, staff, parents and students are truly a community of people that have a genuine affection for each other.
The Chatfield teachers have an amazing way of working with my children and understanding their individual needs and strengths. I think Chatfield co-founder Betty McCauley said it best when she said she loves nothing more than “finding the sparkle in the child and bringing it out.”
For my son Jack, this “sparkle” came out the brightest in his final year at Chatfield. With a strong love for the fine arts, he eagerly participated in art, band, broadcasting and theater throughout his middle school years. In his final year, his band and theater teacher, Mr. Corbett, talked to him about stepping out from a behind the scenes role and trying out for a performing part in “The Music Man.” While Jack hesitated at first, Mr. Corbett’s encouragement gave him the confidence to go through with the audition and land a great part, a role that was the highlight of his eighth grade year.
Most parents didn’t have the choice of a school when they were kids. What do you think about the fact that you’ve been able to choose the right school for your children?
As I watch my daughter Ella move on into middle school this year, I could not imagine her attending school anywhere else but Chatfield. These preteen/early teen years can be difficult for children, and it is comforting to know that she is surrounded by an incredibly community to support her.
Lessons about character, kindness and thoughtfulness are not just taught to her at Chatfield, but are experienced in her day-to-day interactions, empowering her to make positive choices for herself and encouraging her to do positive things for others. I love to watch her take these experiences and grow into a smart, beautiful, caring and self-confident young woman, ready to take on the next challenge ahead. I really couldn’t ask for more.