Growing up, I was TPS (Toledo Public Schools) proud! I have been a staunch advocate for public schools throughout my career, and yet, I took my child out of her public school and placed her in a magnet school.
Three times. That is the number of incidents it took before I took my baby out of her school.
I tried, I really tried, to work with her school. I joined the PTO (Parent-Teacher Organization), even becoming the vice president. I met regularly with her teachers and spoke up for her school, even when I knew it was not getting better. The school had recently failed to meet AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress) and had been taken over by the county—something I did not know when we decided to build our home there.
I am an educator, but I did not know to study the schools in the area because I was a new mom—a hard learned lesson. My daughter’s teachers cared about her, but they did not set high expectations. How, I wondered each quarter, could everyone be making As and Bs when the caliber of the work was not what I knew it should be and was below grade level standards?
My child had no books and limited resources available to her in her school. One of the issues in her district was that an influx of military members began buying property and building in the area, but the property taxes were not reflective of such, and the school was not funded properly.
As a teacher, each day I was giving my students my all, all the while knowing that my daughter was not receiving a quality education. I tried to be the educator that I wanted my child to have, but it was not making a difference for her. I had meetings, went to the school board, attended parent night, volunteered, but there was no improvement.
I was willing to stay and try to see the school through the tough times ahead until I received what was the second phone call from her principal telling me someone had for the second time harassed my child. I knew at that moment that I could not keep her there because not only was her education an issue, but now her safety was in jeopardy. I cried, feeling helpless as a mother in that moment, knowing that her school environment had exposed her, as a 9 year old, to things I had hoped to keep from her for as long as I could.
We placed my daughter in another district, which meant that we would have to drive her an hour away. I would do it again. Once she started in her new school, I saw my child blossom. She had access to programs that ignited her passion for learning. She was not subjected to the things that caused her angst at her former school. She had rigorous challenging student learning objectives, and, for the first time since we moved to the area, I felt relief knowing that my child was safe and nurtured mentally and physically.
What Does It Profit to Win a Debate But Lose Our Children?
In my faith, we often say what does it profit a man to gain the world and lose his soul? Well, I asked myself that question as a mother and an educator, what does it profit me to be the best educator and lose my own child? Before we changed schools, I was losing her. I was fighting a losing battle with a school system that was ill equipped to educate my child.
I often think that it should not take these measures to assure children a good education. As we passed her former school each day on our long commute home, I would feel pained. I hurt for the children who were still there being subjected to a substandard education.
What about the parents who cannot drive their children to a better place? What about those parents who are unaware that the standards are set too low for their children to be guaranteed an equal education as their peers in other neighborhoods? Why should they have to settle just because that is the only option in the district? What does this say about the way the system views children in Title I schools? Why can this be their norm? Why is this okay?
I still am a strong advocate for public schools, and I still believe in them. I also strongly believe that we have to make the best choice for our children as educators. Rather than debating back and forth over what is better: charter, magnet, private or public, we should be learning from one another, sharing ideas, and doing what is best for kids—what does it profit to win a debate but lose our children?