By Deandra Han, Vu Nguyen and Adrian Pescatore
To junior Tuong Nguyen, Summit Rainier has been her home for the past three years. As a student who has matured with the help of Rainier’s community, Nguyen had many mixed emotions regarding the announcement that would change many of Rainier students’ lives.
On Nov. 15, Summit Public Schools Superintendent Anson Jackson announced that, in the 2020-21 school year, both Rainier and Tahoma will be consolidated, and, as a result, Rainier will be shut down. Alongside him were CEO Diane Tavenner, Chief of Staff Kelly Garcia and Chief of Operations Josh Lotstein. The announcement resulted in a variety of responses from all community members who were affected.
Nguyen shared some thoughts on the importance of the Rainier community and the effects the consolidation would personally have on her.
She said, “Throughout my past three years so far I have grown a lot as an individual, therefore Rainier shutting down means a lot because you’re not only taking away our opportunity as students and as faculty members to grow as people, you’re taking away what it means to live at home and have a place where you know you’re loved.”
The Rainier community isn’t significant to only upperclassmen; it has affected the lives of most Rainier students. Rainier freshman Mia De La Rosa expressed how welcoming the community was when she began attending.
“The Rainier community actually means a lot to me,” De La Rosa said, adding that she came from a middle school that wasn’t very accepting. She continued by saying, “Well, the community shut me out a lot, and I think this Summit community really made me feel like I was accepted. I was supported. I felt like I was a part of the school.”
See below for a slideshow spotlighting Rainier’s vibrant community (All pictures taken by Staff Writer Vu Nguyen):
Rainier parents also expressed how connected they are to the community and how this change will affect the school culture. For many parents, Rainier’s sense of community was one of the reasons their children continued to attend the school. Patricia Andrade, the mother of a current Rainier freshman, stated in an email, “Being part of Rainier has meant having an extended family. It is not so much a school, but a community where everyone looks out for one another all while educating & encouraging the student.”
Ms. Andrade, along with other staff, students and parents, attended a Q & A session held by Mr. Jackson on Nov. 20; at the meeting, Mr. Jackson read and addressed the letter sent to parents Nov. 14. Many parents didn’t seem concerned with the letter; instead, they asked questions about the long-lasting effects that would come from this change. Some concerns cited in parent questions included transportation, impact on mentor groups, and the lack of transparency from SPS leadership.
Ms. Andrade stated in a follow-up email, “The change affects our family because we can no longer have faith in the institution … the Board of Directors & the Superintendent have made us lose trust in Summit. We can no longer continue to be a part of this school knowing that those in the position of power choose to manipulate, lie, and hide behind a veil of half-truths.”
With parents feeling the frustration of the decision to close Rainier, faculty and staff were saddened by the decision as well. Many have spent a lot of time and energy building Rainier’s community and witnessing it grow from the very beginning.
Rainier Office Assistant Adriana Sanchez has been a part of the Summit organization for six years and is a parent of two alumni students. As a member of the community and a parent to alumni, Mrs. Sanchez shared how deeply she cares for the Rainier community and its students.
She said, “I really love the kids here; I love my job; I love to talk to all the students, teenagers, because we learn something new every day. And it gives me a good feeling when I’m able to help any of them on any kind of things that they need.”
Additionally, Mrs. Sanchez added that the community here at Rainier is special. She said, “This community is very unique and smart, and it’s in a good, unique way. The kids feel comfortable here as far as I know; and they like to express themselves; and we let them express themselves; so I think we are very open. And we, the staff here, are very transparent with them.”
Rainier Community Engagement Manager Alberto Rodriguez has also played a key role in Rainier’s community. Mr. Rodriguez’s role is to ensure that students feel comfortable in the community and to recruit incoming students. As a community member who has been a part of Rainier for three years, he felt that the effect of the closure announcement was instantaneous.
When asked about the effect the closure would have on the community, Mr. Rodriguez responded, “I think the effects that it had on the community were initially felt and are going to be long-lasting felt because at the end of the day students aren’t going to be able to come back to that community of Rainier.”
He also mentioned how meaningful Rainier’s community has been to him, adding that it’s the main reason he works at Rainier. He said, “It’s meant a lot. It’s meant being part of a community that is really for the students, that is to make sure that the students have everything that they need to be able to succeed.”