By Bill Tamburrino
Ramona Lutheran School may be the smallest preschool to eighth grade school in Ramona, but it is a part of the largest Protestant single denomination school system in the United States, which has 1,406 elementary schools, 976 early childhood centers and 103 high schools.
“It is important that people understand that we have resources beyond our own little operation and that we are not a Lone Ranger trying to run a school on our own,” said Pastor David Keil.
Ramona Lutheran School has close to 60 students on its campus on 16th Street with 17 teachers. It charges tuition, and its teachers range from new to the school this year to a veteran who has been there for over 20 years.
Those new this year are not exactly rookies. Frank Lucio, Gene Doxey and Donna Meyers, recently retired from the Ramona Unified School District, have over 100 years of teaching experience among them. Meyers is the school’s principal.
Math teacher Micky Soul, new to the faculty, is in a master’s program in mathematics and has several years of teaching experience. She replaced Ed Spaeth, Ph.D, who is now doing the school’s grant writing.
Ramona Lutheran School has 180 days of instruction a year and its calendar is close to that of the Ramona public school district.
Why would a retired teacher continue to teach?
“This is a different environment,” said Lucio. “The classes are very small and I get to do much more individualized instruction. I teach classes that are two hours long, two hours a week. I actually teach from some of the same textbooks used in the public schools. Yes, I am working but I still feel retired. It’s a good feeling.”
“It is a different personality and balance than public schools,” added Spaeth. “We don’t have to be politically correct. We can mention that we believe in God. It gives the community an option.”
Meyers explained that Ramona Lutheran School does not have to teach to pass state- and other government-mandated tests.
“We give the Iowa Test of Basic Skills to give us a direction to see what the students need and what we should emphasize,” she said. “We want to build skills in academics, athletics, music, arts and develop well-rounded students.”
“We don’t have to pressure our preschool and kindergarten for reading readiness,” said preschool teacher Deb Abeel. “Some kids are ready to read at age 5 and some are not. We work with each student differently because we have smaller class sizes.”
In addition to its well-rounded curriculum, Ramona Lutheran offers plenty of extracurricular activities, the teachers said. Among them are: a hands-on garden, sports, Scout programs, drama, music, choir, an after-school homework club and a variety of field trips.
The school has laptop computers, a computer lab and a full library.
Hot lunches are served, and morning and afternoon extended care is also available.
“We are a Lutheran school, but all of the teachers and students are not Lutheran,” said Meyers.
“I have never felt pressure to teach or not to teach an issue,” said Doxey. “We do have character education and teach morals and values. We can deal with more real-life issues and talk about topics that are taboo in the public schools.”
“I have the academic freedom to teach science as I did in the public schools,” said Lucio. “In social studies, I am not tied to the political agenda on what I can teach today. I am also not restricted from using moral and spiritual analogies to deal with student questions as we were in the public schools. These kids truly get the best of both worlds.”
The faculty and staff are small in numbers, but they said they are all on the same page and are a happy group. There is banter and back-patting, and even Pastor David is part of the fun. Ramona Lutheran School offers an alternative to the community of Ramona, they said.
The school is at 520 16th St. and may be contacted at 760-789-4804 or firstname.lastname@example.org.