I love our Public School system.
That’s not a news flash for anyone that knows me, but what might be “news” is
how seriously I take the decision on where or who educates our children.
I have rarely engaged a parent in why someone chooses private over public, because for me – that would be like asking “Why did you decide on the Protestant church over the Baptist?”….Club vs AYSO, Democratic vs Republican, Attachment Parent vs whatever-the-opposite-of-Attachment-Parenting is – because I believe it is what that parent thinks is best for their child.
Do I always agree? NOPE! I know for a fact some people make assumptions about some of our campuses without ever stepping foot on them, making claims about knowing the most effective Education models with zero background in Education. But I also know having religion and faith as part of their child’s daily education is crucial to some families…some families like to continue a family tradition of a certain school, some don’t see the light at the end of this financial-crisis-tunnel, while others need the status of being part of “Private School X”. Whatever the reason– its personal and none of my business.
My daughters started at Mayflower in kindergarten; one will graduate from Monrovia High School this June, and the youngest will follow in 2015. Both are college-bound, have made lifelong friends, been challenged in the classroom academically and been enhanced by the arts. My oldest will be pursuing and Art History degree; she has taken photography, drawing at MHS and will be interning at the Huntington and Getty prior to leaving for college. My youngest is part of the amazing Math & Science Academy and working on a Junior Project and once completed, she plans to present her findings to CIF and other governing bodies to be part of the public policy discussion in youth sports and recreation. My girls have very few interests in common on the school campus and both have flourished during their years in Monrovia Schools. I went to Pasadena public schools, my husband attended Monrovia public schools – having our girls attend public school was something we always agreed upon, finding the city to do it in took a while a couple of years...and I am so glad we picked Monrovia.
This school district and the ideal of “public education” was so important to me that I joined the Board of Education in 2009 during one of the very worst financial crisises in California. I joined the Board to be part of the team that is working to keep programs this community needed/wanted AND keep it financially solvent AND highlight all we have to offer and our accomplishments all while encouraging new partnerships and looking for new revenue. When my youngest graduates, we will have spent 15 years as part of the MUSD Family – and like most families, it hasn’t been perfect – but I can think of very few imperfections that are unique to the PUBLIC school environment, most have been part of K-12 education experience. What I do know is what Monrovia Schools offers cannot be matched by the majority of private schools in our area.
I decided to write this note after seeing another note/posting/conversation on why a family had decided to leave Monrovia’s public schools for a private alternative and thought “I should be doing my own convincing/lobbying to retain and recruit Monrovia Families for our schools!”
Why and if parents choose to move their child(ren) from public to private, or from private to public is a big decision – but here are a few of my thoughts:
1. Small class size vs large class size is the most obvious indicator of changes in the last 10 years, in public and private school settings. No study has shown a small class size ALONE will insure a child’s success. Smaller class size is a vital piece, but there are so many others…which lead me #2
2. Instructors vs credentialed teachers are where I know public school has the advantage AND the only way a smaller class size will benefit your child is if there are qualified teachers in the room. There is no question every parent can think of
a teacher their child has had and think “Why is he/she still teaching?” – and while even former teachers might think they have an understanding – the current demands on all our teachers has grown exponentially. What I do know about Education is the process a public school teacher must go through to be in a classroom, compared to the guidelines used for private school teachers.
3. Homogenous population vs diverse population is something that is harder to discuss I imagine, but either you find the diversity to be a benefit or a reason to leave. Personally, I see it as a benefit – the world we live in is diverse and I know my daughters will be prepared to be part of that world. I know the world doesn’t look like Chandler or Poly or La Salle…and I’m not just talking ethnicity. The bigger common denominators being: income, language and special needs. Private schools serve families of certain income brackets, English speaking and no special needs kids. That isn’t a judgment call, that is factual. And while the income level does vary by school and some may offer scholarships, the other two factors are constants. When you opt in to a private environment, you will not come across children new to the country and learning a new language, nor will you find children with special needs sitting next to your child.
4. Elementary School is one part of your child’s education. While it is your first introduction to any school system, no single level of school or school site (remember, we do have 5 Elementary Schools) will offer everything. What isn’t
offered at elementary or your child's elementary school, is probably at middle or high school. And if something is missing, suggest it. And not to the coffee-klatch at Starbucks – email me or a member of the Curriculum team serving our schools. Find out how it can be implemented and be part of the success, instead of wondering why it’s missing.
A couple of the things public schools don’t offer:
1. Single gender education. For me this was the only reason I looked at private schools, plenty of books and studies done showing the benefits of single-gender education. In the end, we opted for co-ed. I have seen a few larger public school districts launch pilot programs, but never in a district our size.
2. No “teacher-lead” religion. I am trying to word that carefully – because I have seen the “all the worlds troubles would be solved if you just let prayer back in schools” and think, “clearly, they haven’t been on a public school campus lately”. On public school campuses there is faith, every day. I know of staff members that meet before the school day or at lunch for bible study, there are faith-based clubs on our high school campuses and our district works closely with the ministerial association locally, partnering quite a bit with mentoring programs and other activities. What we don’t offer is chapel in the middle of the day lead by a member of our staff with we require students to attend.
When we moved here when our oldest was 4, I did not know a single person. Now, I count the friends I have made through my girls education as some of my best friends and the common factor is their dedication to their children, their families and their community. The strong sense of community this City has in incredible; you can see it when it’s time to collect the food for the Thanksgiving boxes, when we hear of a family displaced by fire or disaster and the donations pour in, I cannot count the number of meals I have made to help a family going through a health crisis or time of need – these families, your neighbors – are why Monrovia Schools are the best and why they will continue to improve.
In conclusion, I think many of us know why we chose public vs private (if it was a choice we were able to make), I wanted to add my two cents on why I believe Monrovia Schools are worth your investment and lobby you to stay and invite your friends and neighbors to join our family.
If you have any questions, ever – please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call 626-806-6934. I have spoken at a number of PTA meetings and pre-school mommy groups on the benefits of Monrovia Schools and while I may not have a monetary incentive to offer, the a tuition credit, I know the experience will be priceless.
Monrovia School Board