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Keister Elementary School5
Posted August 17, 2014
- a parent
Some of the other ratings are old. My family's experience with Keister allows me to say it is an outstanding elementary school! Other comments refer to over-crowding and a principal who is no longer at the school. Over-crowding is no longer a problem for two reasons; 5th graders now attend middle school (they used to be at Keister) and city-wide there is a slightly lower number of children in the lowest grades. The current principal and leadership at Keister is outstanding. The mission of the school is clearly backed by action and responsiveness to individual students, teachers, staff and the school community as a whole. The school has great scores in regard to testing. But what sets it apart are the many and diverse programs that are not dictated by standardized programs; Keister involves families in every aspect of the school experience; they are attentive to students' needs and are willing to empower teachers. Keister has "walking days" three times a week, when they encourage all children to walk (or bike) to school; bused students walk upon arrival. The school has a garden that students get to work in, and provide food for the cafeteria. A dual immersion language program.
Keister is over crowded, and has really let instruction slip. There is a lot of talk about learning, but not a lot of anything except SOL prep worksheets. A huge disconnect between what gets said and what actually gets done makes it difficult for anyone to change anything.
We are very particular about our kids school. We visited 4 local county and city schools before selecting Keister. We have not been disappointed. The teachers are exceptional. The school uses Singapore math and ISTEM, two evidence based instructional methods. Our children are learning Spanish in the early grades. The testing used by Keister was able to identify gifted abilities in our children. We have been happy with the challenge classes. Many of the parents are educated and/or invested in their child's success. The principal is hands down one of the best leaders I have met. She maintains a presence in the classrooms, considers the needs of the group well and builds an atmosphere of teamwork among teachers/staff/parents. She is truly exceptional. The diversity among the student body is a great benefit.
Though this is an average to good school overall with a number of strong teachers, it has been in a steady decline under the current/new principal (as evidenced by test scores and parent feedback). The principal may be "warm and caring," but shows no leadership or initiative in making the school better and appears to just be riding the school's previous reputation. Keister's ESL and free lunch population is lower than other city schools and it makes less progress with its student population than other schools. Keister's previous principal is now at Spotswood Elem and is making significantly more progress with a more challenging student population. As the 4 star review parent notes, parents and problems are dismissed at Keister and gifted and other programs are all but non-existent. There just seems to be less interest and less hard work at the leadership level at Keister.
Keister has been under the leadership of a new principal for the past 3 years which has caused the school to loose it's excellent reputation. This school has not been good for my child because issues that I present as a parent are not taken seriously. I would not recommend Keister to anyone new moving into the area.
Contrary to what the previous review said, I think the principal is the best thing about Keister. She is accessible, warm, and caring. I think the biggest problem with Keister is the necesity of focusing on ESL students test scores. The ESL population is so high, that they have to--and they really do an admirable job in this area--but non-ESL kids seem to get overlooked. Especially those who are above average or gifted. This is, of course, not just a problem at Keister, but at all Harrisonburg public schools. Overall, this is a good school with a real warm community atmosphere, but as the parent of a gifted child, I strongly feel that her needs are not being adequately met. What's more (and this could just be her teacher) I feel like I am not taken seriously when I address this issue. This is one school that NCLB has not helped.
This school has fantastic teachers, and in 2004 it was a National Blue Ribbon School, unfortunately there has been a change in the principals and the school has totally changed for the worst. Student needs are no longer on the priority list.