Choice is the true trump card that parents have to play in educating their children. Many parents agonize over their school choices and advocate for specific options to become their chosen reality. There is passion behind these choices and fervor in their rhetoric. But, vocal support of choice doesn’t look like just one thing. It isn’t just a rabid interest in charter schools or an emphasis on “Reform.”
To one DPS parent, Leigh LaFon, choice “requires community devotion to Education.” As an advocate for Public Montessori schools, Leigh goes out of her way to debunk the myth that there is only a right of center perspective on choice. And she does so publicly by drawing upon Denver’s long history of choice.
She references Dr. Martha Urioste as a “personal heroic figure” for establishing Denver’s first Public Montessori in the early 1990s. But for Leigh, the connection to DPS and school choice is much more personal than that. Her daughter is a graduate of Denver School of The Arts and it is clear that her education experience was a powerful and positive force in both of their lives.
So, why does this perspective matter?
It matters because those who want to create “community devotion to education” are concerned with more than just one school. They are concerned with more than just one choice. They are working toward a future of learning that includes all of us. When Leigh LaFon says that she sees “pockets [with] huge potential,” she wants to be a part making sure it comes to fruition.
And this is the other side of the conversation, the stakeholder that is rarely at the table when decisions are made. If parents truly have choice in where to send their children to school, then their voices should factor in when the schools are designed or guiding pedagogy established. The passion for education among parents who advocate for a supportive community is only matched by the passion of the educators within DPS. But we don’t use this ‘other half’ of passion. We don’t (typically) engage in the conversations that are taking place daily about choice.
But, it isn’t hard. All it took was for me to ask one question: “@DenverElle I’d love to hear more about your experience with non-charter innovation in DPS.”
It was the asking that mattered, the engagement that allowed for the conversation to take place. I want this community to exist and so does she. We owe it to the district to ask and to answer, to engage and to collaborate. DPS will grow stronger or weaker based upon these kinds of “choices”.