I’m not a perfectionist, but I do like to get things right the first time. So, it’s no wonder I’ve become a little obsessed with where I will send my daughter to school.
I live in, what I believe to be, a really good public school district – Nickajack. I went to their Kindergarten Open House not long ago and was very impressed by what I saw and the people I met. The teachers and members of the administration I met were passionate, caring and genuinely happy to be there.
I do have some concerns with the results of our public schools however. For example, only 67 percent of Georgia's students graduate from high school, ranking our state 45th in the country in graduation rates, and Georgia ranks near the bottom nationally in most measures of K-12 academic achievement. Clearly that is not true of every school in Georgia – or even most in Cobb County – but nonetheless, facts are facts.
I should add at this point, that I am a product of public schools in Cobb County. I attended East Valley, East Cobb and Wheeler. I think I turned out pretty well and I know that I received a great education – one that prepared me well for college.
But, things change. As I prepare for my 20th high school reunion, it is fair to say that quite a bit has changed in both the county and in the world of public education since I matriculated in those esteemed institutions. And even more importantly, I have changed.
Becoming a parent changes everything. It’s a cliché, but only because it is true. Like all parents, I want the best for my child. And, at this point, I’m not at all sure that a public education, at least long-term, is the best for my daughter. It’s that simple.
So, in the span of three weeks, in addition to Nickajack, I’ve visited three other private schools – all Christian schools that are affiliated with a local church – and an informational meeting for what will hopefully become the new Smyrna Academy of Excellence, assuming they receive a charter from Cobb County and can build a school by 2013.
Coincidentally, one of my clients (for my PR business), the Center for an Educated Georgia, was in charge of coordinating the School Choice Rally at the Capital last week. I was not all that informed about the school choice movement, the recent battle between the state and local school boards about charter schools, or vouchers… other than to say that I knew I paid a lot in school taxes and unless I sent my daughter to our local public school, or was accepted (by lottery) to a local charter school, that money would most likely be educating someone else’s child as it certainly won’t follow mine to any private school.
One of my favorite slogans for school choice among the advocates who work on education policy is “educational options should not be limited by zip code or bank account.” But, sticking with my complete honesty here, for the vast majority of us the reality is that the choice of school for our children is limited by at least one if not both.
For my daughter, I think I have found a fantastic fit at one of the church-affiliated schools I toured. Next I’ll set up a private tour and meeting with the director for both my husband and myself. After that, I expect to know for sure if their school is right for us.
My hope is that we will get it right the first time and that the school we select will be a great fit for our family through elementary, and hopefully, even middle school. That said, when it comes to our children’s education, there is really nothing more important. So, I’ve learned to relax my obsession a bit in the knowledge that my first choice certainly doesn’t have to be my last.
I’d love to hear your comments on the choice of schools for your children. Why did you select the school you did? Would you have done it differently if “zip code and bank accounts” weren’t part of the equation? Has your choice been the right one for your kids?
-Sarah Douglas is a Smyrna wife, mom, PR pro and Smyrna-Vinings Patch's newest blogger. As president of Sarah Douglas Communications, Sarah works on media relations, strategy, marketing and event planning for a variety of local and national businesses and non-profits.