By Jamie Clipper
A presentation from Renaissance School to the Montclair Board of Education started with a touching story from a school parent.
Renaissance father Bryan Lonegan, shared the experience of his son Arthur, who has autism, at the June 16 meeting held in the Montclair High School auditorium.
While growing up, Arthur always wanted to play with the neighborhood kids, but they would laugh at him. By the time he was 12, it seemed as though he had no friends and was living in his “own tower”, Lonegan said.
When Lonegan found out about the middle school, whose approach is teaching with "few walls," he knew he had to enroll his son despite the contradicting advice of experts. The sixth through eighth grade school collaborates with community resources, including the Montclair Art Museum and Montclair Public Library.
“Three years Arthur spent at Renaissance. These were the three most important years of his life,” Lonegan said.
Lonegan said the school taught his son how to socialize, form sentences, and build pride and friendship, freeing him from “his tower.”
“The Renaissance teachers and staff really create a learning environment that maximizes the students to their fullest potential,” Renaissance PTA Co-President Tom Knoth said. “It is a beautiful thing, something you have to see.”
Renaissance teachers also shared what they think is working and what they believe needs improvement at their school.
“The district is working in very profound ways. It is not broken and does not need to be fixed,” said Joyce Korotkin, a Renaissance School founder.
Korotkin said open dialog, and teaching children in a “holistic manner” are what’s working. The Wifi service, she said, needs improvement.
Korotkin also requested the removal of quarterly exams which were made mandatory this school year.
“Levels of anxiety of our students have increased dramatically this year," Korotkin said.
Sixth grade science teacher Todd Smith shared his position that the special education teacher population is no longer keeping up with the special education students.