Although I am not a native Washingtonian, I have called DC home for a major portion of my life. When my husband and I moved to DC, we selected where we would live based on what we could afford and where we worked. When we started our family, the thought of finding the right school for our son was daunting. We knew we would select a school that was out-of-bounds—our neighborhood school had been shut down, and the next two closest schools were not doing well academically. To get an idea of what type of programs were available for our son, I visited over twelve DC public schools and public charter schools. For us, having him learn a second language was very important. So, we applied to schools with a second language component, as well as some with a STEM focus and others that utilize expeditionary learning.
Of the twelve schools we applied to, our son was accepted to four –two charter schools and two public schools. The schools were very different –from the curriculum they used, to how they approached teaching a second language, to their school’s mission. What helped us make our decision was the school community. At EW Stokes, the teachers, administrators, and parents embrace and celebrate the diverse student body and the different cultures represented in the school. They create a safe environment where everyone is welcome.
When our second son was of school age he was admitted to the school through sibling preference. From the time our first son started at the school until now, we have watched the school take on new challenges and grow to better prepare its students to become part of the global community we live in today. That is the beauty of a charter school, being able to improve how it serves its students in a more agile way.
I first became involved with PAVE during National School Choice Week (NSCW) 2016. At NSCW, I shared my family’s story with my councilmember and spoke about how charter schools are helping to shape my sons’ educations. I was also able to listen to other charter school parents and hear their experiences. I would like to see more collaboration between charter school families, the charter schools, and the traditional public school system, DCPS. There are so many best practices that can be shared amongst these groups that no child should be left behind.
By Suzie Parsons, PAVE Board Member