The Public School Option:
A Case for Micheltorena Street School
By Catherine Borek
I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but around Silver Lake these days, we seem to be having something of a baby boom. We see cherubic-faced babies in strollers zooming around the reservoir, toddlers in Sex Pistols t-shirts eating gelatos in Sunset Junction, and 8-year-olds playing soccer at Silver Lake Rec. Wherever you look, there they are: the next generation. We love them. We dote on them. We want what’s best for them… especially when it comes to their education.
The question then arises: how do we know what’s best for our children and their education needs? Furthermore, does our desire for our children to get the best education mean the death of the public school system? As dedicated parents, you have surely endured a confusing array of point systems and lotteries, high tuition and long wait lists , in hopes of seeing your child thrive in her academic endeavors. Perhaps you’ve been stuck in a car for a couple of hours each day or watched your kid come home to neighborhood kids he doesn’t know because no one on your block goes to the same school. Is it worth it? Are we making ourselves– and our children– insane in the pursuit of the “perfect” education?
Perhaps, as Rousseau suggests, we should “develop some sort of central direction and learn to act in concert.” If a critical majority of Los Angeles families returns to their local public school, then our community as a whole will benefit. Instead of spending so much energy in the “Where will my kid go?” dance, parents can refocus and set their sights on making the school down the street a model of educational excellence. Ask all the big educational gurus: What is the most important part of school reform? Parents. That’s us. We can do this. And the more of us who enroll our children, the more powerful the outcome, not just for your kid, but for a community of kids.
Case in point: our daughter will be attending Micheltorena Street Elementary School next year, and we would love for you, dear parent, to consider joining us. There is an incredible team of parents, teachers, administrators, community activists, and students who are fighting the good fight and making this neighborhood school a thriving academic environment. Maybe you’ve heard about the new Wonder of Reading Library that just opened in December, or about the school’s music program, which has featured chorus and orchestra as part of the curriculum. Also, class sizes average between sixteen and twenty students, giving each plenty of face time with their teacher. Perhaps on your way to the farmers’ market, you’ve noticed a small army of volunteers planting trees and building vegetable beds in the school’s new garden. The garden is fast becoming the center of Micheltorena’s developing sustainability curriculum that includes teaching students about agriculture, solar energy, and water conservation.
Of course, you might also go on-line and feel dismayed when you see the API score last year at 693, but please take note that when recalibrated to represent students without special needs, the score is 844. (By comparison, Ivanhoe is 938, and Franklin is 894.) Micheltorena Street School has a strong foundation in place, and with the collective support of Silver Lake parents, we can help make this school even stronger.
Imagine the possibilities: walking your kids and their neighborhood friends to school, helping to choreograph the afterschool musical, starting a “Future Evolutionary Biologists Club” that meets every week, watching your property values rise with mention of Micheltorena School District, assisting in the classroom during a difficult math project, planting kumquats and chard in the school’s garden, making it easier for future parents to answer the grueling “Public, private, charter, or magnet?” question, all while still preparing your child for her PhD from MIT.
As members of a community where we try to eat local foods and shop at local stores, I believe there is value in also supporting local public schools. While there is much to learn from the successful programs in any school, the democratic foundations and inclusivity of public school make it ours, and I think our children can authentically learn about the importance of community, diversity, and equality when they are immersed in it every single day. So instead of throwing our hands up and declaring that public schools cannot be saved, let’s roll up our sleeves and do the hard work to make these schools better. Together, we will make Micheltorena Street School an academic powerhouse for all of our children.