As a lifelong Brooklyn resident, I’ve watched with sadness, but also relief, as some of the schools I attended as a child have closed. Junior HS 324 and Martin Luther King HS weren’t that good when I went there, and as the years went by, they continued to go downhill.
I now have three kids of my own and the most important thing to me is that they receive a great education and go to college.
But when it came time to enroll my oldest son in school, the only option was the zoned school in our Flatbush neighborhood. On the first day of first grade, he couldn’t recite the alphabet or spell his name. Later in the year, he came home with a missing tooth — another 6-year-old had kicked him in the mouth. I knew something had to change.
I looked into schools in other neighborhoods and was willing to travel to find a better place for my son. Luckily for me, an elementary school that my nephew attended was changing locations and moving near my home. It was called Explore Charter School. At the time, I didn’t know what a charter school was, only that my nephew was happy and doing well. During my visit, I found a nurturing environment with high expectations. I thought it would be a good fit for my son who is in the special education program. He’s now in the seventh grade, and I am thankful every day I had this option. I know many families who do not.
Now the politicians are fighting over whether more great schools — charter schools and regular public schools — should be able to open and bad schools be closed. I don’t understand the debate. If a school is failing and the children aren’t learning, why would we fight to keep it open? We can’t let our kids fall through the cracks over politics.
A high school like Paul Robeson, for example, is not a school I would ever consider sending my own kids to. Students aren’t graduating, and they certainly aren’t ready for college.
As I start looking for high schools for my son, I’m concerned again about the options close to my home. They’re not acceptable to me. My son shouldn’t have to travel an hour or more to another neighborhood just to get a quality education, but right now that’s our only choice.
As parents, we should be joining together to fight for schools that provide an adequate education and that equip our children to compete. We shouldn’t be arguing over whether to keep bad schools open. We know without a high school diploma our kids can’t get good jobs or be successful. I refuse to let that be the future for my children. A good school should be a given, not something we have to work so hard to find.
Lakisha Adams is a lifelong Brooklynite and mother of three.