The Lower Merion School District Paradox

Lower Merion School District (LMSD) is known to be one of the best school districts in Pennsylvania, despite the recent laptop-webcam scandal.  I have toured two of the public elementary schools already and they seem to be amazing.  It would seem like a no-brainer that I would want to move my family there for the schools if the decision was purely based on school quality.  Of course, there are issues that are important to me beyond school quality (see the choice criteria tag plus personal issues like commute times and financial), but let me put them aside for the purposes of this post.  Are there other reasons that LMSD is not the best choice?

Drawing the school districting lines for the Lower Merion School district last year was a contentious issue, involving loud town hall meetings, angry allegations of racism, lawsuits, and now a federal investigation.  Should that controversy also be a factor?  Read the rest of this entry »

Philly Teachers Need Anger Management?

I started this blog just before the new contract was signed with the Philadelphia teacher’s union.  At the time, I was supportive of the contract and the innovative/proactive changes to the traditional structure of the contract.  It also seemed like public and media reaction was generally positive.

Now that the new contract is off of the front pages, however, there is a vocal group of teachers who seem to be quite unhappy with the new contract.  Reading several Philly teacher blogs and news articles out there, it is clear that teachers are experiencing a  wide range of emotions–fear in some cases, distress or jitteryness.  Yesterday, this blog received an anonymous submission Read the rest of this entry »

Winning the Lottery: Independence Charter School

Independence Charter was the only school which explicitly told us, “Do not hover.  Do not contact us.  It makes no difference.”  Their incoming class is filled by random lottery on the first Friday of December.  The only exception is siblings of current students, who get first preference.  Sibling preference actually fills up quite a lot of the kindergarten class – this year there were about 26 openings for the lottery out of a total 44 spots.  So, about half of the incoming class is siblings.  There were about 200 applications, giving us about a 10% chance of getting our son into Kindergarten (or about what my chances were of getting into any particular medical school back in 2003).   The business manager assured us on the phone that the lottery was random, “We actually, literally, pull the names out of a hat.  Well, nowadays it’s a big box because there are so many kids applying.  You’re welcome to come view the process.”

And that’s exactly what we did this past December.  We dragged Read the rest of this entry »

Having Your Cake and Eating It Too

This blog got very popular very quickly.  I have no illusions that it is about anything that I am doing.  I am certain that it is all about the shared anxiety we have as parents of soon-to-be-school aged kids.  I have only gotten one community submission on the emotional aspect of this process, but, as a result of finding this blog, many strangers and friends are reaching out to me to share their fears and anxieties without formally submitting stories.

The conversations often go something like this.  “We love our Philadelphia neighborhood, but we hate our local public school.  We believe in public school, just not the public school option available to us here.  We can’t afford private schools [or we don’t think that they are the best option].  We can’t count on getting into Read the rest of this entry »

Confessions of a Conflicted Public School Advocate

By Anonymous

Who would have thought that picking a school for our kids would make me feel like I was back in 8th grade again??  It’s a constant whirl of asking people what they are doing and having people watch us, or so it feels.  It’s the constant going over of priorities in my head, what really matters to me I ask myself so many times in a day, and then so quickly I feel undermined by what other people are doing, next year, last week, in three years to come.  Some of this is surely my own baggage, but as with everything else in parenthood my school-picking journey has been fraught with wondering how people will see me/us; I really am clear about what matters to me, my parents were public school teachers and then principles in New York City.  My brother and I went to public schools in New York from kindergarten on, and it was a rich experience.  We met people of all kinds, though I am still struck by the fact that the friends we became the closest with were so much like us.  We were driven into East Harlem from K-8 to attend Deborah Meir schools (for those of you who don’t know, Debbie Meir received a MacArthur grant for her establishment of educational institutions in New York and then in Boston) and yet we remained the closest with the kids on our bus, the ones who lived in neighborhoods more like ours.

For numerous reasons, my family doesn’t feel that our neighborhood school is a good fit.  I have a lot of anger that my kid’s neighborhood school is not a choice after having been the kid whose own parents never went on a school trip with me because they were teaching other people’s children.  I feel like a good school should be a choice within easy reach and it’s not, really, in so many places in Philadelphia.  We are waiting on the lottery to get us into one of the three public schools that we like from afar and that is a scary place to be.   The obvious next issue is where we will live if/when the lottery doesn’t go our way and so I spend lots of hours in the night worrying about the slippery slope of it all.  I am, on the one hand, dropping my jaw in horror at the tuitions our friends are shelling out for pre-K, even, many people we meet in Fairmount openly say that they had just one kid so that they could afford to carry on at such high rates of tuition for their child.  But I am also somehow judging the people we know who move out to the ‘burbs.  How, how, how will we live by our values and within our means when we too choose to move beyond our neighborhood school and try to opt in elsewhere?

[edited 2/22/2010, added “by anonymous” for clarification–Len]