Editor's Note: Excuse My Rant
As a parent of a second grader, I have a very vested interest in the educational system here in New Orleans, so this month’s cover feature with Patrick Dobard, CEO of New Schools for New Orleans, was particularly interesting to me.
Back before I became a parent, when we were living for a time in Nebraska, I remember watching a documentary about the educational system in New York City. The film showcased various families in the city and their struggles with the fact that the quality of their child’s education literally depended on them winning a lottery. I was horrified. It was so wrong.
Little did I know that I was looking at what would be my family’s future.
Coming from a childhood where all my parents had to do was sign a paper and their kids were enrolled in what they knew was a quality school, the realities of the pre-kindergarten process in this city were quite a shock.
First, there was all the research, all the time spent poring over ratings and test scores trying to figure out what schools we even wanted to consider, paired with endless conversations on the playground that began far before my child was old enough to even stand.
Then there were the interviews and tours — both rarely scheduled at a convenient time for those that work or in a way that were child-friendly or offered childcare. This was followed by a plethora of often confusing paperwork, testing appointments to schedule and rankings to agonize over. Finally, all of this was capped off by a nail-biting period of months before ultimately receiving the phone call or email that dictated my child’s educational future. Sounds like fun, huh?
I can honestly say it was easier for my husband to get into medical school than it was for my child to get into kindergarten at a high-performing charter school.
Our system is unique in the United States in being the first to be comprised primarily of charter schools and I have to say I am very happy with our school. My daughter receives the same education free of charge that I know for a fact parents in San Francisco pay $30,000 a year for their kids to receive. We won the lottery. We were lucky — and that’s what it takes here.
There are some truly amazing schools in this city and we need to give them all the support they need, while also boosting those that have struggles up to the same level. That is exactly what New Schools for New Orleans is committed to doing.
Someday soon I hope that none of our families will have to rely on luck for their child to attend a great school. The children in this city represent our region’s future workforce. We all have a big stake in their success.