By Jasmine Chinn, Jennifer Rico and Charlie Stattion
The sudden notice given to mentor groups and their teachers of the upcoming closure of Summit Rainier has led to conflicting feelings about how that will play out. Mentor groups were told that they would have four years with a group of strangers which would, at some point, turn into a second family. However, in the coming year, students and mentors will be separated from their mentor groups after building a circle of trust and friendship.
Rainier faculty and staff have problems with the closure and how Summit Public Schools leadership notified them. Not only are they worried about their students, but also they have begun to look toward another school or what else their future might look like.
In addition to teaching, Summit teachers get to know their students deeply by serving as mentors. Their mentorship program includes one-on-one weekly meetings with their mentees in order to give personal attention; develop communication skills; and keep the students on track for success. With dedicated mentor time each week, teachers support their mentees throughout their entire time at school and work to help them develop Habits of Success.
Summit’s official website states, “Mentoring helps students develop the trust and confidence that allows them to take risks, ask for help, and persevere. Students meet one-on-one with a dedicated mentor who knows them deeply and supports them in setting — and achieving — their goals, all the way through college acceptance. Students also join a mentor group, which provides a safe and close-knit setting for building community and developing Habits of Success.”
Ricardo Quezada, an A.P. U.S. government teacher and freshman mentor, has been affected by the consolidation of Rainier. When asked how it would affect his mentor group, he said, “I know that when I told them and when they heard the news, some of them were crying, were really upset. Some of them on the surface looked like they’re OK. But I’ve been a consistent figure, a consistent adult male of color in their lives. And I have a lot of boys in my mentor group … that relationship that I’ve built with them has been very special.”
Over time, Mr. Quezada has developed a strong sense of community, staying at Rainier for six years. Having been a part of Rainier for quite some time, he’s formed connections with both students and faculty. Mr. Quezada has had multiple mentor groups during his time at Rainier, but the mentor groups he has received have been from other mentors who had not been able to stay with Rainier, for whatever reason.
“I think even though I’ve, I’ve only been with this group for a few months now and this is my third mentor group. And so this is the first time that I’ve been able to start from the bottom up and get them as freshmen and always inherited a group, and, you know, in my mind I was like: right this time. I’m going to raise them well, and I’m going to raise them my way you know,” Mr. Quezada said.
Shaila Ramachandran, freshman biology teacher and junior mentor, said she’s already seen an effect on her mentor group: “I’ve been talking to them. They’ve been having different kinds of reactions. Some of them have been putting on a brave face. Some of them have been kind of thinking about it more logistically, like, ‘OK, where am I going to go? Let me make a decision.’ But I think under all of that, a lot of students are just feeling really heartbroken or feeling really disappointed and let down.”
Stuart Morris, an A.P. U.S History teacher and sophomore mentor, said he feels that a big part of being in high school is the relationships. “I feel that the relationships that the students have with each other and the friends that you have. And then it’s relationships also in the level of comfort that you feel with teachers, it’s also relationships that you establish with your colleagues, like the lot of the friends I have, who are teachers here are really good people.”
Teachers have been majorly affected by Rainier closing and consolidating with Tahoma. Teachers were feeling heartbroken; they are not only losing the community that surrounds them, but also losing their job that allowed them to form connections with the family-like environment that has come to be at Rainier. Unlike the students, teachers were not guaranteed a position at Tahoma, and they were told they would have to re-apply for their positions, with no certainty as to who Tahoma is going to hire.
When asked about his options after the consolidation, Mr. Morris said, “Basically, starting in January, I think a lot of the teachers will start looking for other teaching jobs in the Bay Area, and we’ll do a survey with Summit, to see if we want to keep working with / at a Summit school. So I think a lot of teachers will probably end up doing both.”
He added, “They’ll, they may end up seeing if it works out to work at a Summit school; but, at the same time, you kind of have to cover your bases and see if there are other jobs that will be available. So I think the fact that the school closing leaves no doubt in your mind that you’re going to have to go out and look for another teaching job. And, usually, that kind of stuff is from January till about May that the hiring season takes place.”
Katina Ballantyne, a Modern World History II teacher and senior mentor, was asked about her opinion on the consolidation and how it would affect her and what she would do after. She said, “Prior to the consolidation, I was not planning on coming back to Summit, because I found that my own morals and ethics do not align with the organization.”
She explained, “I feel that it is very clear, more than ever, the way that this has been handled and the disrespect that has been shown to the students and families in this community. It only confirms my decision even more that this is not the place for me. After seeing the truth, I don’t want to work for an organization that treats people like this.”
Whether teachers will continue the path of education is solely up to them; while some have an idea of what life after Rainier looks like, others do not.
Isela Mosqueira, a Spanish teacher and junior mentor, explained, “I have even thought about whatever I will end up doing next year, and I even thought of offering myself up as a tutor to their families to, like, if there’s a class that’s hard for them to pass, like, coming over and, like, helping them with work, obviously, helping them with college applications.”
She also added, “I will figure something out. But I just want to make sure my kids can get through senior year smoothly and do all the things that they want to do.”
The sudden news had faculty concerned about how this will affect the juniors during their senior year getting prepared for college and having to separate after knowing each other for three years and not being given much of a choice to stay together.
Mrs. Windsor expressed her concern for the juniors, while also saying, “On the other hand, I think that for freshman mentees, it’s easier than for upperclassmen who have had a longer deeper connection with the community and especially with their mentor group and their mentor.”
Ms. Ballantyne has been at Summit Rainier for three years, she understands and resonates that this news has majorly affected the juniors.
“I’m very worried about them for a number of reasons. In regards to their college applications, it’s a really personal process; especially some of those essays can be about really personal topics, your college counselor also has to write you a letter of recommendation,” Ms. Ballantyne said. “So I’m extremely concerned that someone, their counselor, is going to have to write them a recommendation after only knowing them for a couple of months.”
Mrs. Mosqueira has been at Summit Rainier for three years. She supports her mentor group and plans to be with them until they graduate.
Mrs. Mosqueira also believes that this transition will be difficult for the juniors; she said, “My mentor group has been together for three years. This change means that we won’t get to go through senior year, like was planned. We won’t get to graduate together. I won’t get to support them physically in at this school, obviously through the application process for college, for scholarships; though, I mean, just making it to graduation, as well, and it, it means that we’re, you know, we’re going to be saying goodbye.”
Staff Writers Ismael Navarrete and Carlos Villarreal contributed to this report.
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