Moms Council Question of the Week: How Did You Settle on Your Child’s School?

Many parents pick their school attendance area as carefully as their home. Are you one of them?

In this space every Wednesday, the La Mesa Patch Moms Council poses a question and invites your wisdom—and chimes in themselves.

The council is captained by Mommin’ Around columnist Genevieve Suzuki. Other members of the Moms Council are Deena While, Linda Byerline and Tony Lawrence.

Now the question:

School just resumed in the La Mesa-Spring Valley district after a two-week break. How did you decide on a school for your child? Was it just a matter of geography or a result of research?

Deena While October 27, 2011 at 01:25 PM
I strongly believe that families should attend the school in their area and not mess with the boundaries. When parents pull their children from one school and send them to another, THEY are the ones that mess up the system, create over-crowding, place the "smart kids" or "rich kids" in one school, and establish the belief-system that THIS school is better than THAT school. And I won't even talk about the parents who move their kids because of the other kids that attend a school. We all live in this community, we all need to work together. Just because you can shield your child in the early years doesn't prepare them for the real world. Yes, you might work for a boss who is not your ideal person, but mommy and daddy are not going to be able to change that - you need to be able to work with everyone.
Genevieve Suzuki October 27, 2011 at 05:38 PM
I'm conflicted about this issue. When I was a kid, I attended the school in my district. I loved it. In fact, I'm still friends with many of my elementary school classmates. I always said I would do the same for my daughter (place her in our district's school). I'm still leaning that way - we're lucky enough to live in an area that features a school that has met its standards. That said, if we lived in a district that didn't meet the standards, I'm not sure I would send her to that school. I'd probably enroll her in a private school, though, and not push her into another district's school. Moreover, if the public school didn't feature an arts program - thanks, budget cuts - I would more than likely forego that choice. The arts are far too important to me and my family to leave our daughter to the whims of slashing administrators.
Deena While October 27, 2011 at 06:27 PM
Here's somethings to consider... If you take your daughter away from her neighborhood she will have a hard time playing with friends. She won't be able to ride a bike to a friend's house, won't have nearby friends. My sister-in-law is a teacher. She teaches in North County. She enrolled her kids in the school she taught at. They made friends with North County kids. But never got to play with them outside of the school day. It was sad. Now the other side is this. My kids go to El Cajon Valley High School. It is deemed a low-performing school. Not because of the the staff, or programs, but because of the high enrollment of ESL students (English as a Second Language). These kids are refugees, many don't speak english and they are not excluded from the state testing. So the test results say the school is bad. Is that right? Is that a true reflection of the school? Absolutely not. My kids are getting a great education - my son is #7 out of 564 kids in his grade, taking AP and Honors classes. He scored well above Advanced in all the subjects on the state testing. My point is this, if I were to pull him from ECVHS and move him to a school that the other parents deem 'better', I would not be doing anything to better my kid's education, but I would be hurting my neighborhood school and community by supporting a false belief that ECVHS is a bad school.
Batman October 27, 2011 at 09:02 PM
There's an old saying: "If you want something done right, do it yourself". Home schooling is legal in California, despite what the education industry tells you. Look into it.
Batman October 27, 2011 at 09:06 PM
Lila Hayes October 28, 2011 at 02:21 AM
I think the ability to easily change from one school to another creates competition among schools which should drive them to want to improve. [Amazingly enough, I have even been known to leave a job where I have a boss I don't agree with.] In a way you can say you're doing the "greater good" by voting with your feet and leaving a poorly performing school. After sending my kids to their home school for three years I started looking around and found one in our same district that fit them better. I personally believe that being the #1 student in a class full of under performing students really doesn't do my kids any favors. It's not my kid's job to prop up the school's testing scores. Once we moved I will agree that it was a hassle always having to drive a few extra miles to take them to their friend's birthday parties and we had to actually schedule "play dates" but we made it happen. Then we decided to get out of that neighborhood and started looking for a home in the neighborhood their school was in. We eventually moved and they now again go to their home school, but I would've continued the commute if we hadn't been able to move.
Tony Lawrence October 28, 2011 at 12:54 PM
Absolutely agree with that whole thing
Tony Lawrence October 28, 2011 at 01:10 PM
This is not meant to be confrontational or start a brouhaha, but I strongly disagree with home school. I certainly respect your right to do it and those who choose that rout, but I think there is so much to be gained by going to public or private schools. First social exposure - meeting friends and folks, being accepted or rejected buy groups or people is part of the fabric of our lives. Having a teacher you disagree with, or one who really inspires you - those can not be replicated in home school. It also prepares you for bosses and people you may butt heads with in life. It also exposes you to different ideas and views and ways to discuss them and entertain the notion that we don't have all the answers - heck, we don't even have all the questions. Sports programs and proms - hanging out at the football game or supporting your buddy at volleyball or track or lacrosse - meeting that new kid from New Mexico or New York or New Zealand - those can not be replicated in home school. In middle and elementary school, that is when kids are learning to learn. Our kids (hopefully) know how to learn from us, sending them to school teaches them, when their brain is still pliable, to learn from other figures. Rule following, waiting your turn, sharing, when to let things go and when to stand up during recess are (in m opinion) as important as the 3Rs. It would seem a parent could certainly augment the school's curriculum if a beach in education was the question.
Tony Lawrence October 28, 2011 at 01:11 PM
Any success most of have had is because of how we deal with people and situations, not on how well we learn the state capitals or history - but because we learned how to learn history and capitals. Social integration, setting up a pecking order and the experiences are things I would hate for my child to miss out on.
Tony Lawrence October 28, 2011 at 01:19 PM
It is your "job" to educate your kids the best you can. I also believe we have a responsibility to our communities and neighbors and schools. School is only half educations and the other half developing life skills. It is not amazing that you left a job that you disagreed with the boss - I assume it was a pretty major disagreement on policy or ethics or something and not a birthday cake policy or something. Even leaving that job or school teaches our kids something. They learned a lesson about upward mobility and <this sounds judgmental and is not meant to> or leaving a job when things got difficult to bear. Some jobs, (or schools or communities or marriages or whatever commitments) are worth hanging in and fighting for and at some point jobs, schools, whatever reach a breaking point - we all hope we teach our kids how to deal with those situations and choices. I am blessed with kids who go to a good school with their friends and neighbors and I am a huge part of what goes on - I could not share as much if we commuted and would hate the thought of my kids missing out on that.
Elizabeth October 28, 2011 at 04:47 PM
My kids go to a religious K-8 school, so, so far I haven't had to think about which public school I would have used. Now that my elder child is nearing high school age, I'm having to face this decision about schools. Frankly, I like the convenience factor, plus, if your school is close, it will be easier to volunteer there, so you're more likely to have a direct influence on whether it improves from whatever condition it was in when your kid got there. A friend of mine taught the neighborhood high school and loved it; she still speaks highly of it. Deena has a good point, that if we all just sent our kids to the neighborhood school, the school would have a mix hard-working/lazy, naturally smart/has to work at it, and possibly rich/poor (depending on the neighborhood). My neighborhood is ethnically and economically diverse, so I've seen while driving by it that our local school has quite a mix of people. I'd like to think that my kids would excel no matter where they go, but maybe that's just a mother's bias. And by excel, I don't just mean that they would get better grades than the other kids, but that they would learn enough -- academically and socially -- to be prepared for the colleges or jobs or whatever else awaits them after high school.
Batman October 28, 2011 at 04:50 PM
If I were a teacher I would hate home schooling too.
Kyla October 28, 2011 at 07:12 PM
The difference between a privately educated adult and a publicly educated one is pretty stunning. There are, of course, exceptions and I think the difference is vastly more pronounced in more recent generations (people 25 and younger). Your post speaks volumes about your involvement in your childrens' education, so I'm sure they'll get a great education wherever they end up. However, there is definitely something to be said for private high school. It's very worth it to consider the idea.
Batman October 28, 2011 at 07:23 PM
Yes, I know. The big advantage of public school, "socialization" - code word for "sex, drugs and rock & roll" education.
Genevieve Suzuki October 28, 2011 at 07:58 PM
I see your points, Lila. I feel similarly. I wish I could say I had energy to fight the school boards for what I believe our kids deserve, but I don't. After I work a full day, I want to spend time with my daughter - not attend board meetings on a weekly basis to beg administrators to pay attention to good programs.
Elizabeth October 28, 2011 at 10:15 PM
On the other hand, if my neighborhood school is crappy, I don't think it's my sole responsibility to send my kids there and volunteer my time there to save it! Wherever I decide to send my kids for high school -- be it public or private -- I'd have to look at the real reasons that a school has a good or bad reputation and see if those reasons resonate with me.
Genevieve Suzuki October 28, 2011 at 11:04 PM
I second this sentiment.
Deena While October 28, 2011 at 11:09 PM
Being active on campus, knowing the staff and administration, having their cell phone numbers in case of emergencies ensures that your voice is heard without having to attend school board meetings. In all my years I have attended one school board meeting and that was to receive an award. In my experience, attending the school meetings, such as the school site council, pta and that sort of thing puts you in direct contact with the 'powers that be', and my concerns have all been addressed within 24 hours. So don't think that there is no one to listen to you or help -- we all have the same goals - child safety, education, achievement.
Deena While October 28, 2011 at 11:25 PM
And make sure you do check it out, don't go on just what you hear. My high school had such a bad reputation that the middle school staff and students talked bad about it. Once I was at the high school, I came back to the middle school and made the prinicipal address this. His staff had no right to say the things they said, or direct parents away from ECVHS. I invited the ECVHS Principal to attend our middle school pta meetings so parents could get familiar with him. It did take work - work that I was happy to have done in order to change a false reputation. And here's a warm and fuzzy for you -- When my daughter was touring colleges I was surprised by her concerns -- "Mom, that was an all white campus - I don't like that!", she said. It made me proud that the diversity of the student population entered into her choice for college.
Tony Lawrence October 29, 2011 at 01:04 AM
Batman - I am not a teacher - I have no idea whre you got that from, but it shows your ignoring attention to detail and jumping to conclusions. As far as sex drugs and rock and roll education - I am sure your children ended up perfect and virgins and drug and alcohol free - congratulations. I am also sure they will know how to deal with that pressure when you are not around shielding them from the world because of the values you have instilled in them. People had sex and drugs and rock and roll WAY before "public schools," and while we are dealing in wild sweeping generalizations (you started it) I am sure no home school kid even grew up a maladjusted dork with no friends or people skills. Not to mention in the last 25 years 28% of serial killers were home schooled. OK I made that up, but I was just throwing out facts like I am a teacher and that is why I hate home school. If you want to have a discussion, have an intelligent, respectful one, not a childish one filled with lies and pot shots. If you want to have a battle of wits ... I would surrender if I were you - I was brought up in a public school!
Batman October 29, 2011 at 01:35 AM
I had no way of knowing if you were a teacher or not. I just said if I were a teacher I would hate home school too. You can probably assume I am not a teacher. I stand by my statements. This so-called "socialization" does expose kids to a negative element. Public schools cannot be selective about who they admit. Students at Helix High now have the privelidge of being exposed to street gang activity. Sports activities such as Little League and Pop Warner are available outside of public school. These sports provide exercise and social interaction. Have you ever heard of scouting? So much public school study is "junk knowledge" - global warming, gay studies, ect. The most important thing they can learn from us is that we care about them. Would you leave a suitcase filled with 1 million dollars at your local school for a teacher to look after while you go to work? A school with street gangers running aroound? How much are your children worth to you?
Genevieve Suzuki October 29, 2011 at 04:11 AM
Just for some background, the reason I mentioned school boards is I've been attending these meetings for several years. As the wife of a music teacher and a journalist, I've had to live through countless threats to arts programs as well as sit in San Diego Unified District school board meetings and pray - literally PRAY - they won't cut the music programs and my husband's job. My husband lost his job as the orchestra teacher at Oak Park Music Conservatory this year when they cut positions.... He worked for six years for that school, getting kids into the youth symphony and honor orchestra. And those kids - those kids are the very ones who need music and arts programs to help interest them in school and academics. I've seen what happens when a board doesn't listen to your pleas. I'm living that reality. This year I sat there with a sign, begging school board administrators to listen to the teachers, parents and students who presented at these meetings. So, as a matter of experience, no, I'm sorry, I'm not interested in putting my daughter in a school that's constantly threatened by board administrators.
Tony Lawrence October 30, 2011 at 03:31 PM
I have heard of scouting, little league and pop warner - in fact I have coached managed, sat on boards and served as president for over ten years - year round. I am certain my knowledge of these are at least equal to yours. That all comes before high school when most kids are exposed to "negative elements." I stand by my statements that kids are going to be exposed to "negative elements" in life - no matter where they go or what they do and shielding them from it is not serving them. Teaching them how to cope and respond to situations is a better way to go in my opinion. I have never seen a gay studies class or a global warming class. They do however, learn science. Sadly there is a small vocal portion of the population that seem to think science and education is silly and agenda driven. Being educated used to be something to strive for, now it is slurred (mostly by the much less educated) as being "elite." It is a return to the grade school days where the dummys made fun of the "nerds" or "brainiacs" - now it is all manifesting in their adult lives - and the "nerds" won -they are making more money, and have better lives.
Tony Lawrence October 30, 2011 at 03:33 PM
Oh, and your inflammatory smug, self serving, petty, idiotic question of "how much are your kids worth to you?" is shallow and stupid. They are worth more than I will ever have. They are worth more than I could ever give. They are worth everything. That is why I spend more time in my school, youth sports, activities and share time than I do at my job. I have raised good kids - kids I trust to handle situations when I am not around. Kids who have good hearts and better social skills. Kids who have the tool box to make handle all the situations you are terrified of. You keep your kid/kids under your protective umbrella and on a short leash - that is your choice and I respect your right to make that choice. I just think for me and my kids, I made the right choice for them.


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