We appreciate the continuous feedback and thought from our new principal. He seems inspired and passionate about his job. However, I was not impressed by the lackluster teaching and involvement of my daughter's classroom teacher. The students had a few writing projects over the year, and I was absolutely appalled at the level of writing that was considered acceptable. I was expecting to get honest feedback on the improvements that were needed in my daughter's writing, but it was not even mentioned on report cards. In my mind, the role of a teacher is take a student's current capabilities, and grow and expand on them. This was not done. Any growth or expanding in thought process and understanding seemed to be done at home. "They aren't making us do that at school," or, "as long as we wrote enough words, it's fine," seemed to be common phrases out of my daughter's mouth. Standards for personal best need to be much higher. Teachers need to help their students learn, grow, and be able to take helpful criticism on a regular basis. That is what learning is all about.
Accessible and enlightened new principal (Chuck Hatt) has an excellent grasp of the needs of the students and everyone in the community that influences those students. Not only does he practice the common sense and compassion gained from many decades of teaching experience, he is a highly-trained, national expert in the area of literacies curriculum which he has implemented all over the Ann Arbor schools with dramatic, measurable success. Although much is written and implied about the "snobbishness" of families in this world, in my observation, they go above and beyond to make BP an inclusive, kind world for their children and for the children of people they don't know from poorer neighborhoods across town.
I guess unsatisfactory is the most appropriate choice because we left, as in literally changed schools. It's fine school on paper, but no more so than half a dozen of the other A2 schools that cluster at the top in terms of test scores. What really put us off was the culture. There are deep socioeconomic divisions between the contiguous and non-contiguous families and that translates into de facto segregation just below the surface, which we felt added a subtle but unpleasant tension. As for the less subtle, I'm afraid we saw a bit too much of the petty, provincial snobbery North Burns Park and the Hills are famous for. Think Mean Girls. Now imagine their kids are in your kid's class. We met notable exceptions, but they were just that. So yeah--we're quite finished with Buns Pahk. (Be sure to say that through a clenched underbite, with an affected transatlantic flair.)
New principal (Mr. .Hatt) seems great. Even talking about getting professional development training for the lunchroom staff and bus drivers! Innovative thinker and leader, warm and receptive. This school has Spanish instruction from K-5th, unusual for A2 public schools, due to parents and PTO raising money through the BP World Language Initiative. Generally, a very involved parent and family community. Great garden, working on improving the playground. Many very strong and dynamic teachers.
Such a unique community, Burns Park has amazing teachers - the faculty is very responsive and cares about the kids. Programs like the community garden, Walk and Talk program, Burns Park Foreign Language Initiative, Burns Park Players, Burns Park run..the list goes on, all add to the sense of community you feel as a BP family. High test scores (above A2 average) and high parent involvement are more reasons this school gets 5 stars.
Burns Park School is a good, not great school. Because of the high praise that this school receives by word-of-mouth, I can only surmise that it has been resting on its laurels for quite a few years now. The administration is completely unreceptive to ideas that are not its own. While our children have had some very good (not excellent) teachers, they have also had some wretched ones. The abysmal teachers are protected by the administration under the penumbra of faded excellence. If it weren't for the high level of parent involvement, Burns Park would be an also-ran, slightly below average school.
I have mixed feelings about this school. When we moved to this town two years ago we heard absolutely glowing reviews of the school. It is true that the parent involvement is amazing, range of activities that they organize are amazing. The teachers however, are remarkably uninspired and uninspiring for all the hype. The principal is quite helpful and perceptive and spends a lot of time in the classrooms and is a very useful person to talk to. The classroom teachers that my child had the past two years were really very very average. They do not motivate children to do more, they do not inspire creativity or originality and do not seem to really have any ideas for how to inspire the children to be 'life long learners'. Exceptions are art and music teachers who are very good.