The end of the 2012 school year has a special significance for me because it means saying goodbye to the Petaluma school community. Our youngest daughter, Jennifer Lynn has decided to transfer from Petaluma High School to Montgomery High in Santa Rosa for her junior and senior years.

Changing schools – especially midway through high school – was something that I never anticipated doing. All of our three children stayed at the same elementary school  even when the school went through some difficult changes in the administration and many parents were jumping ship left and right. We always felt that if they had good teachers – which they did – that was what really mattered.

But when we moved from Petaluma to Cotati last November, which put us equidistant from both Petaluma and Santa Rosa, Jennifer became interested in checking out some of the specialized programs at Santa Rosa schools that she had heard about from friends. Programs such as ArtQuest at Santa Rosa High and the International Baccalaureate program at Montgomery High.

Jennifer has always been a child who likes to try things out and is more willing to put herself out there much more than her siblings ever would. And thankfully, her experimentation runs in the direction of social and academic outlets rather than risky behavior. She’s tried cheerleading, drama, badminton, public speaking – all just to see if they held any long-term interest for her.

So rather than being intimidated by the prospect of finding her way around a new school and making new friends, she’s excited about it. She feels like it’s a challenge that she would regret passing up.

I also think she wants to get out from under her older sister’s shadow and forge her own path. She’s not like me – I purposefully sought out the same teachers and professors that my older four siblings had had. They were all really good students and I’m sure many of the A’s on my report cards were given to me purely on the basis on my last name. They had set the standard; all I had to do was not screw it up.

But I have to respect Jennifer for not wanting to only be known as “Valerie’s sister” in her remaining time in high school. She wants to achieve something that is unique to her. Is there sibling rivalry in there? Sure, but again, I’m grateful it’s channeled in a positive direction. There are a lot of ways teenagers set themselves apart so if Jennifer is doing it by switching schools so she can take on an academically tough program, I’m ok with that.

As supportive as I am of Jennifer wanting to challenge herself socially and academically, there are many things I will miss about the wonderful Petaluma school community. The PHS Band (thank you, Mr. Eveland), the Herold Mahoney awards, the PEF awards, and Senior Recognition night are just a few of them.

For almost 20 years, one of our kids has been in a Petaluma City School. It’s been a great journey.