Mike Rossi's children only missed three days of school to see their dad run the Boston Marathon, but it was long enough to merit a sternly-worded letter from their principal.
And the 47-year-old father is making headlines for his concisely worded response.
Philadelphia magazine reports Rossi was honored to have qualified for the marathon, and he spent months training. Even through a death in the family and a physical injury, Rossi pushed on.
When the marathon neared this past April, Rossi and his wife pulled their children out of Montgomery County, Pennsylvania's Rydal Elementary School for an extended weekend trip.
Although the weekend was one of personal success, Rossi was disappointed to see a disciplinary letter from the school arrive thereafter.
Rossi, who says he's very active in the education of his children, disavows the school's zero tolerance policy for absences.
Instead of apologizing, he penned the principal an impassioned note.
The principal's warning letter read:
I understand that your family recently took a family vacation. I want you to be aware that the Abington School District does not recognize family trips as an excused absence, regardless of the activities involved in the trip. The school district is not in the position of overseeing family vacations or evaluating the educational nature of a family trip. The dates that the children were absent were recorded as unexcused. An accumulation of unexcused absences can result in referral to our attendance officer and a subsequent notice of a violation of the compulsory school attendance law.
Rossi responded with his own argument.
Dear Madam Principal, While I appreciate your concern for our children's education, I can promise you they learned as much in the five days we were in Boston as they would in an entire year in school. Our children had a once-in-a-lifetime experience, one that can't be duplicated in a classroom or read in a book. In the 3 days of school they missed (which consisted of standardized testing that they could take any time) they learned about dedication, commitment, love, perseverance, overcoming adversity, civic pride, patriotism, American history, culinary arts and physical education. They watched their father overcome injury, bad weather, the death of a loved one and many other obstacles to achieve an important personal goal. They also experienced first-hand the love and support of thousands of others cheering on people with a common goal. At the marathon, they watched blind runners, runners with prosthetic limbs and debilitating diseases and people running to raise money for great causes run in the most prestigious and historic marathon in the world. They also paid tribute to the victims of a senseless act of terrorism and learned that no matter what evil may occur, terrorists can not deter the American spirit. These are things they won't ever truly learn in the classroom. In addition our children walked the Freedom Trail, visited the site of the Boston Tea Party, the Boston Massacre and the graves of several signers of the Declaration of Independence. These are things they WILL learn in school a year or more from now. So in actuality our children are ahead of the game. They also visited an aquarium, sampled great cuisine and spent many hours of physical activity walking and swimming. We appreciate the efforts of the wonderful teachers and staff and cherish the education they are receiving at Rydal Elementary School. We truly love our school. But I wouldn't hesitate to pull them out of school again for an experience like the one they had this past week. Thank you for your time.