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Why I Cried at My Daughter’s School Meeting

Last month, parents at my daughter’s school, SA Washington Heights, gathered in the auditorium to hear Ms. DePalo explain why Success Academy and other charter schools are marching in Prospect Park on September 28. As Ms. DePalo spoke about the need to improve access to charter schools and provide all children with an excellent education, the auditorium filled with tears—including my own. When parents began telling their own stories about escaping from underperforming schools, I cried. I too had lived that struggle.

Two years ago, I was searching for a school for my daughter, Katelynn. The school she was zoned to attend in District 6 was a failing school. The thought of sending my daughter there was unacceptable to me. I am a fifteen-year veteran educator in our public school system and today I work at a low-performing school in New York City. Throughout my career, I have seen firsthand how underperforming schools prevent students from living up to their potential.

Throughout my career, I have seen firsthand how underperforming schools prevent students from living up to their potential.

To avoid our zoned school, I applied for district schools that accepted students from out of district, and even considered private school options. Then a friend told me about Success Academy Washington Heights. Her child loved the school and she thought it would make a great fit for my daughter. I applied to the lottery, but was placed on the waitlist. Then, one week, later, I received a packet in the mail. We had been accepted! Immediately, we went to visit the school.

I was blown away by what I saw.

I saw children who were attentive and happy — it was clear that they loved being in school. When we observed a math class, it was like every best practice I had ever read about in education was brought to life! Children were engaged in the lesson and receiving constructive feedback. I was impressed by the classroom libraries I saw, stocked full of books. As a lifelong educator and a parent, I knew this was where I wanted to send my child.

SA Washington Heights has not disappointed us. My daughter comes home and loves telling me about the robot she programmed that day, or the book she’s reading. When I visit, I see children who are well-behaved and having fun learning. Her teachers support her every step of the way.

So when other parents started to tear up at that meeting on August 31, so did I. I cried for all those times I’ve seen children not succeeding because their school failed them. I cried because every day, I offer advice to parents whose children struggle with reading, but I know how hard it is to compensate for an underperforming school. I also cried tears of gratitude because my child won a lottery that has given her the gift of an exceptional education.

The ability to make a choice about my child’s education makes me feel strong as a parent.  I want every parent to be able to make choices about their children’s education and have access to charter schools. On September 28, I will be at work. But I will be standing with my child and her grandmother in spirit as they raise their voices to advocate for a great education for all children.


Written by Maggie Tejada September 20, 2016

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