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Am I a Teacher First? Or a Parent?

April 18, 1998

Do Los Angeles Unified School District teachers have an obligation to send their own children to public schools? If they elect to send their offspring to private schools, are they, in essence, saying that public schools aren't delivering a quality education? MARY REESE BOYKIN spoke to two LAUSD teachers, one with a child in the LAUSD and one who opted for a private school.



Counselor, math and science magnet, Dorsey High School

When I transferred to Dorsey in 1983, my daughter Georgette was just 2 years old. I wanted to work closer to my Windsor Hills home so that I could spend more time with her. When Georgette began elementary school, she was dropped off after school at Dorsey. She attended football games and other evening activities that I supervised. Basically, she grew up here. As a young child, Georgette would say, "When I go to high school, I want to go to Dorsey."

By the time she entered ninth grade, she had chosen law as her career goal. Dorsey offered a law and public service magnet that same year. There were those who didn't accept my decision. "Why would anyone want to go to Dorsey?" they would ask. Georgette attended Palms Middle School and was among a small group of achievers offered an interdistrict permit to Beverly Hills High School. She was taken on a visitation to Hamilton High School.

So why did I choose Dorsey? Not only am I committed to public schools, I am committed to the school where I work. I have worked at schools throughout the district: in the inner city, the Valley, at Palisades High. I know the district's academic programs. I find Dorsey's programs comparable to those at other schools. I felt it was better that Georgette attend a school where I know the curriculum, the staff, the programs. I was not worried about safety because working here, I know that we have lots of nice students. It's a small group who misbehave and gain the public's attention.

My decision to send Georgette to Dorsey is not unprecedented. I know at least six other Dorsey educators and staff who have opted to send their children here. When my neighbors--two professionals--pondered where to send their son, I encouraged them to visit the school, to base their decision on their observations, not on hearsay. That young man is now a 10th-grade Dorsey magnet student.

Of course, there were some challenges for Georgette early on. Teachers who saw her talking to students who were problems in their classes would tell me about it. Students would drop by my office to report if she was tardy for a class. These challenges were manageable, and in time, Georgette established her own identity.

I have no regrets. Georgette entered high school with a fear of math. But her teachers here boosted her confidence to the point that she now takes calculus. I have measured her progress through her SAT scores. With an SAT of 1,210 and a weighted grade point average of 4.04, she has been accepted at USC, UC Berkeley, UC Santa Barbara, UCLA and Spelman College.

Georgette has been involved in so many activities at Dorsey, from student leadership to academic commissions to basketball and track. I don't know whether she would have been as involved at another school. All along, I have known all the opportunities available to her and made sure that she took advantage of them.

Dorsey has served Georgette well. I would make the same decision again.



English and social studies teacher, Orville Wright Middle School I have always believed in the philosophy of the public school, but my faith dwindles every year. My daughter, Starr, attended Windsor Hills Elementary School, where she was identified as a mentally gifted student. She entered Orville Wright middle school and I transferred there. It's a school referred to by some in the district as the country club among middle schools. Starr was at least a year younger than most of her classmates. I looked forward to spending lots of time with her.

Gradually, I noticed Starr's lack of excitement about school. There was not enough teacher interaction, support, sensitivity or expectations on the part of most of her teachers. By the time Starr entered eighth grade, I realized that keeping her in public schools would interfere with reaching her goal of becoming a physician. I began the search for a private school. I chose St. Bernard High School in Playa del Rey, a parochial school.

Let's just face it: Something has to be done to save the public school system. While the academic programs do a commendable job of meeting the needs of honors, gifted, and magnet students--and Orville Wright is among the highest performing schools in the district--the needs of students in the regular program are often overlooked.

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