In the course of the ongoing community conversation about school reassignment, I keep hearing the phrase “this is our time.” Generally, it refers to the Board of Education considering changes to the student assignment plan not because they have to, but because they believe it is the right thing to do. Instead of a court-ordered change, this is a self-initiated process.
Not unexpectedly, this initiative is a relative surprise to many who feel that our current school assignments are fine. For those of us who are happy with our current assignments, we haven’t seen a reason to “fix” what isn’t broken. Many of us haven’t paid enough attention to what goes on beyond the walls of our own children’s schools. We’ve been deeply invested and engaged in the success of our own schools, but not in all schools. Until now.
This issue is emotional for many, as the outcome directly affects our most precious responsibility: our children. Unfortunately, it’s been increasingly presented and perceived as an “us vs. them” battle, polarized by “no-to-this” and “yes-to-that.” I urge us all to stop and look around. Parents and caregivers all over the county are simultaneously paying attention to the issues and challenges of public education. People who were previously disengaged are taking this issue seriously. Literally thousands of families from all backgrounds are committing time, talent and energy discussing, researching and educating ourselves and one another about education policy, the challenges of urban schools, school funding, educational outcomes, the historical context of attempts to address school segregation and much more.
I believe that all of us, from every neighborhood, want what’s best for our own and all children. I recently attended a CMS Chat in a different district, home to many of our most challenged schools. I went to listen, and heard many more commonalities than differences. Parents there want the same thing families in my district enjoy – quality schools with strong leadership close to home. They want crumbling facilities repaired and made useable. They want to attract and retain quality teachers. Overwhelmingly, they want to preserve and improve close-to-home schools, where the school can serve as a hub of community. They recognize that magnets and busing are an escape from a failing neighborhood school, not a fix for its underlying problems. These parents pleaded for a real fix to restore stability and pride to their neighborhood schools.
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All our children deserve high-quality schools close to home, and if we can maintain an environment of collective calm, I believe we are faced with an opportunity. This is our time. It is our time to listen to one another with open minds and work together to develop a plan every family in every neighborhood can embrace. One that starts from the premise that we each are our children’s best and most-committed advocates. One that encourages cooperation, support, shared resources and experiences between schools in different neighborhoods. One that frames this conversation as only the beginning of a deeper relationship between all families and all schools.
We all want the best educational opportunities for our children. There is an enormous amount of energy around finding a solution, and with that momentum comes creativity and ideas from people of all backgrounds and experience.
Please, let’s listen to one another and make the most of all of our time.
Baron is a CMS parent.