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Kaleidoscope School of Discovery

By: Lee Ann Swarztentruber

Students returned to school almost two weeks ago, but not everyone has settled into a routine. Mosley High School’s $6.6 million dollar renovation project is incomplete, causing students some confusion, and North Bay Haven and University Academy moved into new locations where traffic congestion is still a source of concern. 

Kaleidoscope School of Discovery (KSOD), a State of Florida K-12 private school, serves students facing learning disability challenges. The school opened in 2005 with an enrollment of nine students and today’s enrollment has increased to 150 students.  

Administrator, Cliff Mattson is fulfilling a commitment that his mother, Linda Mattson began. She struggled in school with learning disabilities, dropping out in the seventh grade, but later led the way to help others be successful. “She went through adulthood, raising six children, feeling less intelligent than most. Once we were grown she decided to go to college and received her bachelor’s degree and formed a tutorial service,” said Cliff. 
Cliff also faced learning challenges and dropped out of high school, but like his mother, he enrolled in college later in life ultimately obtaining his Master’s degree in social work. “I believe that lives are too important to be left to chance and some need purposeful efforts on the part of others to find new directions and opportunities,” he added.  

In 2004, local homeschooling parents asked Linda to assist with their kids and thus, KSOD was born. Cliff and his wife, Sara joined her to operate the school. Students at the unique school struggle with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, emotional and/or other mental health disorders and behavioral challenges. 

Although KSOD is a private school it is registered with the State of Florida and is tuition-free. The school is funded through the McKay Scholarship program which is for any special education student in the State of Florida. Many eligible students are unaware of this program. All grade levels are available, and students completing all four years of high school are given the opportunity to graduate. There’s an application process to enroll at KSOD, and any student in the public school system who has an Individual Education Plan (IEP) for the most recent school year can apply. 

“Academics are measured through grade level testing for each subject, but the testing is not to determine promotion from one grade to another. It’s to place the student within the scope of their capabilities. Mainstream schools operate on a cookie cutter format and that doesn’t work with all students. We allow each student to work at their own pace within their academic performance potential,” said Cliff. “We also teach real world life skills to help our students function in society – to develop internal motivation to succeed.”

Barbara Martin, mother of ninth grader Sarah Masaitis said, “Sarah is ADD/ADHD and has an auditory processing disability. She’s able to learn at her own pace at Kaleidoscope and in her own style and she’s flourished. Her maturity has increased dramatically and the former awkward and timid young lady has turned into a very intelligent and social teen.” Martin added, “I was nervous the first day she went, but when I picked her up she came out with a big smile on her face and said, ‘they get me mom, they just get me!’ and all I could do was cry because we had finally found the right place.”

Expanding the SCOPE of Traditional Education 
Volume 5, Issue 18             August 29 - September 12, 2004
Masaitis said, “I don’t have stress at my school and I don’t have to worry about FCAT. I don’t have to wear uniforms so I’m allowed to express my individuality. I love being part of such a great school and not worrying about whether I fit in.” 

As for expansion, Cliff says they believe their current size is just right – small enough to manage their environment in such a way to continue their success. “We enjoy flexibility. Our academics are not driven by FCAT testing or common core standards – we work to meet the student’s academic needs and make sure they’re challenged appropriately. We’re not just providing academics, we’re developing people,” said Cliff. “Our success with our students not only impacts their lives, but will be felt for generations. There is not a greater thing to be a part of.”

KSOD is located at 2420 Jenks Ave., in Panama City, and their website is www.ksod.org.