Hello my name is Caitlyn, I am a proud DPS parent and a TEN parent leader. I am here tonight to share our family’s story about how we got our daughter, into a school that was right for her- and the confusion and fear that we felt along the way. DPS has a school of choice system, which both empowered our family to attend a better school than we would be able to if we attended the school closest to our house, but also, the school of choice process was really scary.
Without the school of choice process, my daughter would not have had access to a school where more than 20% of students are reading on grade level.
Two years ago, we were looking for a school to send my daughter to kindergarten.When I found out that the school that would have been our home school had about 2 out of every 10 students reading on grade level, I felt panicked. I felt panicked because as a mother, I have done everything I can to make sure my daughter is ready to flourish as she ventures into the world little by little on her own. I have made sure she eats good foods, understands the importance of kindness and respect. I have created a beautiful home for her to live in, I have tried to do everything right. Imagine, getting to 4 years old, feeling like you have done everything for your kid and then realizing that the school I might have to send her to was a school where she may not flourish.
I applied for 5 schools, outside of my neighborhood, all of which were green or blue schools and waited to hear which one she got into. My daughter was waitlisted at all of them. She was 33rd on the waitlist at one school, 6th on the waitlist at another and 80th on the waitlist at another. She did not get into any of the 5 schools we applied for in Round 1. I know now that we were apart of the 5% of families who did not get into any of our round 1 picks. I hope that whoever the next superintendent is understands the panic of those on waitlists throughout this city.
The lack of access to high quality seats is real and it becomes even more real when your daughter is on waitlists that could determine her future.
I went back to my friend. Luckily, we were able to get into a school we love during the second round of choice, where my daughter is thriving. She has been the scholar of the month and is excelling in reading and math. More importantly, she is happy.
As this district searches for a new superintendent, my biggest request is to always get as close to the actual experiences of parents as possible- that is how we are going to solve the problems that we still face in our District.
As our school board goes to listen to community about what they want in the next superintendent, I just hope that they go with an open heart. There are points of celebration, you can feel those with us. But there are also points of pain, points of trauma and points of panic. I hope that this board will open their hearts to those experiences too. There are children just like my daughter on waitlists across the city.
We have an opportunity to learn and evolve as we move through this superintendent search. I challenge the board to come to that evolution with an acknowledgement that we still have a lot to do to improve our schools in all our neighborhoods and a lot more to do to build community.