I have been a vocal, dedicated public school advocate for as long as I can remember. The pledge to “Go Public” with my support for public education is an easy one. It’s easy even though I am a charter school parent.
Our choice to enroll our daughter in a charter school was personal, difficult and, frankly, grew out of our frustration with the limitations of our neighborhood options. Even the magnet programs in our district have not met my expectation of rigor. I don’t mean rigor in the four-hours-of homework sense (though I am a fan of homework), rather that A’s should require real effort and reflect success – not just presence – and that every student be challenged academically.
It is my hope that my children will learn to work hard for their success in education as a precursor of things to come.
At the same time, I recognize the reality that rigor is different for every child (and, actually, every parent). Our public schools have to balance the spectrum of needs and abilities.
As Inga Munsinger Cotton points out in her piece, traditional public schools have big jobs, broad responsibilities and are not always the right fit for every child. It is precisely because I share this view point that we removed our child from a traditional public school.
Honestly, if I believed that our schools were failing all of the children, I would have stayed. In fact, I did stay in that very scenario when my oldest child attended a magnet program located at a very neglected middle school. In that situation, where the entire school was failing, our obligation to all students was to dig in, roll up our sleeves, and help turn the ship.
With the exception of the rigor that I desire, that school is, today, a great option for middle school, with thriving extra-curricular programs, tremendous leadership and the bustle of kids who are safe and happy to be there.
I don’t think anybody denies that as good as many of our neighborhood schools are, there is still room for improvement and growth if we intend to prepare our students to be competitive with their national and global peers.
The Go Public awareness and marketing campaign for Bexar County’ independent school districts recognizes that we must always strive to do better for students – but, in that pursuit, we can and should celebrate what is working well. Sharing this good news and building community pride in our schools will help us grow a culture whereby success breeds success. And success for our public school students is success for all of us.
Whether our children attend traditional public schools, public charters, private schools, or home schools, the commitment to support our public school districts and to promote excellence, rigor and accountability benefiting the the vast majority of our Bexar County students who do attend traditional public schools must be priority. Going public with our support of public education is a statement about how we, as a community, see our future, what our workforce will look like, and what our economic opportunities will be.
I hope all of us will sign on to support our public schools.
Blakely Fernandez is an attorney, mother of a freshman at the International School of the Americas, a public magnet school, and a sixth grader at Basis charter school (also public school, for the record), and former Trustee for the Alamo Community College District.