Last week, I wrote about the decisions we have coming up regarding real estate, and our son’s education. And I love, love, love all the reader feedback and comments. This week? This week I’d like to talk about our thought process thus far.
My husband and I are products of public schools – albeit not in Dallas, since we both landed here as adults. But in our time as a couple, we have kept a watchful eye on our adopted hometown’s education offerings, and once Tiny became a waving little alien on an ultrasound screen, we began, in earnest, discussing what we would do.
We’re kind of planners. OK, more accurately, I’m a raging planaholic, and my husband is a planner. But this now-ongoing discussion needed to happen that early because it involved real estate – which, as we all know, is something you try not to go into willy nilly.
So we first took a look at the school we would be assigned to for elementary school – Withers Elementary. As luck would have it, we have several friends and acquaintances with children who were attending at the time, and at least one whose children are now attending. Nothing but raves. A dual-language program that has benefitted hundreds of children. Robust parental involvement. Great ratings from the TEA, and compares well with many of the elementary schools in the area of similar size and make up.
In other words, we’d be happy to send him there.
And then there are the hard-t0-get-in-to but alluring montessori schools – Harry Stone and Dealey. We are going to be touring those next month (more on that in a later post), and attending a magnet school open house as well. As it stands, we plan on going through the assessment process, and letting the chips fall where they may. While we are perfectly happy with the prospect of sending our child to the school he is assigned to currently, if we can get in a school that he can stay at from pre-K through eighth grade, we’d be fools not to try. For one, it gives us a great deal of flexibility when it comes to timelines for what to do with the house. Suppose the market gets hot enough in our neighborhood that we’d be fools not to sell? Well, I don’t necessarily want to rip my child out of his school in second grade if I can help it, right?
Thinking far, far into the future, our high school (currently) is W.T. White. A bit of backstory – we are involved with Big Brothers Big Sisters. Our little brother will be the first in his family to graduate from high school, and is going on to college. I credit the teachers and counselors at White for recognizing his strengths and weaknesses, helping him do the same, and encouraging him along the way. A lot of people can be credited for encouraging his success, but those educators at White deserve a big thumbs up. If it is the same way when Tiny is in high school, I will be happy.
But as the title of this post says, we’re committed to Dallas public schools – for now. Things can change, we know. And if they do, and we feel the school district isn’t challenging our child anymore, then we will address it. But after doing a great deal of homework and talking to many, many satisfied parents and students at DISD, we feel confident right now that our son will be challenged and happy (our two main concerns). There are constant opportunities available to children (see here, here, here and here) – many nationally-ranked magnet schools, lots of gifted and talented programs. There are plenty of programs in non-magnet schools for kids to choose from as well – our little brother is in the engineering program, and is thriving.
The fact of the matter is this: If you go by media coverage of school board meetings and judge the district by political infighting, yes, it looks like a hot mess. But if you look at the individual schools in your feeder pattern, talk to those parents and look at those rankings, you may find that the schools are far better than you’ve been led to believe (or vice versa). After all, do you go by the crime data for the entire city of Dallas, or your potential neighborhood when house hunting? Are comps based on sales in Dallas as a whole, or a neighborhood? It’s the eating the elephant analogy – on the surface, the task looks foreboding. When you drill down, and you realize there are options and leaping off points throughout the 13 years of instruction, it becomes a manageable mouthful. When looking at schools, I look for a handful of things – parental involvement (a thriving and active PTA, Dad’s Club, etc.), first-hand reviews, open houses, test scores and accountability rankings. When we reach the middle school point in the journey, we will reassess, and will do so again at the high school level – as a family.
And I’m not saying I’m not concerned by the very public tussles involving the DISD school board and Superintendent Mike Miles – I am keeping a watchful eye on that as well. Future posts will also examine the idea of home rule, and whether it is feasible. I’m also open to questions – if you have a question about a specific aspect of the district, or of the TEA or the state school board, please shoot me an email or comment, and I’ll try to suss that out for a future blog post.