Jessie Johnson and Jeff Hollander and their daughter Olivia Holland,10, have moved from the US to Alstonville in search of a better life and education.
Jessie Johnson and Jeff Hollander and their daughter Olivia Holland,10, have moved from the US to Alstonville in search of a better life and education. Jacklyn Wagner

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JEFF Hollander and Jesse Johnson wanted to escape the rat race of San Francisco for a rural setting with a promising education for their academically gifted daughter.

After a trip Down Under last year and a destination hunt around the Northern Rivers, the couple decided there was no better place suited to the move than Alstonville.

But aside from the rolling greens hills, five acres and friendly community, it was Alstonville Public School that sealed the deal for them.

In April, the couple and their 10-year-old daughter, Olivia, packed up their lives in the States and moved to the Northern Rivers.

“We came here in August and my husband picked the region to look at,” Ms Johnson said.

“We checked out all kinds of areas, Mullumbimby, Lismore, and picked Alstonville for the school.”

Mr Hollander said one of the main reasons for the move was the chance to get Olivia into the opportunity class at Alstonville Public School.

“We were moving from an area that was highly populated. We did not want to put Olivia in a school with 30 or 60 people as that would be too big of a change with us already moving countries,” he said.

“Olivia gets bored very easily and hated school since the fourth grade.

“Only now, since she has been in the opportunity class, has she enjoyed school.”

Education in America was really suffering, Mr Hollander said, and teachers were teaching to the content in a nationwide curriculum test, similar to Australia’s controversial NAPLAN testing.

“The better kids suffer in America because they don’t have the money to keep up with the best kids,” he said.

“The No Child Left Behind policy in schools means if a child is a below a certain level, the school is penalised.”

There were no efforts to look at creative subjects like art, physical education (PE) and music – subjects that are the norm for most Australian students.

“We are thrilled now,” Ms Johnson said.

“Olivia comes home and she has done music, science and PE. The education is a lot more advanced here and I like the independent learning.

“Students are given a topic and they have to research it and present it to the class. She has not had that experience before.”



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