“We Choose Jenison”: The Johnson Family

This summer we are privileged to share the thoughts from Jenison families who stand as our most devoted and eager advocates. Please join us each week as we hear from parents with students of all ages.

JPS summer, Jenison Public SchoolsMy name is Debra Johnson and my husband is Pete. Our three daughters attend Bursley Elementary.  Rebecca and Samantha are in 5th grade and Sara is in 3rd (Spanish Immersion Program.)  I should let you know that Rebecca and Samantha are not twins.  They are one month apart in age; it is a long story in itself, but we adopted Rebecca when I was very pregnant with Samantha.

We have been in Jenison for four years — since Rebecca and Samantha started first grade.  Sara has been in Jenison since preschool. So our story really starts when my husband accepted a position in Grand Rapids.   We moved from Macomb Township (Detroit area) to Grand Rapids eight years ago.  The school district was very important to us as Rebecca is on the autism spectrum (very high functioning but definitely needed services).

Everyone we talked to, including the realtor, recommended the Forest Hills School District. So, we built a beautiful home in a beautiful subdivision in the Forest Hills School District.  At first, we were very pleased but it soon became a disaster.  A series of events including bullying and lack of special education intervention led us to decide to sell our home and move.

The question was, where?

We interviewed one district after another: Rockford, Lowell, and East Grand Rapids, to name a few. But, I did not believe any of the schools were a good fit for us.

Then I remembered I had gone to an autism conference at Penn State where I had met Carol Gray.  She explained the importance of social stories and also told stories about the school district where she had worked.  To my surprise, it was Jenison Public Schools.  Even though she no longer worked for Jenison I felt it would be worth the time to interview Jenison.  As soon as we met Rane Garcia at Bursley I knew we found our new school.  We sold our home and moved to Hudsonville and attend Bursley as school of choice.

I am most impressed with the diverse educational opportunities at Jenison Public Schools.  Jenison has provided Rebecca with the services she has needed to excel in school.  She is mainstreamed and doing very well.  At the same time, my daughter Sara is in the Spanish Immersion Program at Bursley and is hoping to be accepted into ACT, Jenison’s Gifted and Talented Program.

Everyone we’ve worked with has shown dedication and genuine interest in my children’s education.  They exceed my expectations.  This year Rebecca developed a horrible rash on her face.  It required hospitalization and many doctors visits.  She missed over a week of school.  Her teacher and class sent home cards as well as gifts that would lift Rebecca’s spirit.  I was so touched that Mrs. Van Biljon took the time to have the students create cards for Rebecca and also use her money to buy colored pencils, paper, etc. (Rebecca LOVES to draw)   It made Rebecca so happy and with all she had been through it was so great to see her happy.  This is just one example of how the teachers go beyond the call of duty for their students.

Furthermore, all my children have grown while learning at Jenison. I have watched my youngest Sara learn a second language.  Samantha excels in all her subjects and enjoys Girls on the Run. And Rebecca learns more and more everyday.  I love how my kids come home from school and share what they are learning with me.  I have watched them go from first graders who were totally dependent on me to independent third and fifth graders.

We are so glad to have chosen Jension!

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