Monday, October 03, 2005

No Rest for the Wicked...

This weekend was Oktoberfest. Our new pastor and parochial vicar survived. I'm not sure about the new principal--I'll find out more when I get home and hear from DD#2. Some good news: a family that I know won the big prize in the raffle and they can use the money. Some bad news: there's rumors abounding that one of the grades cheated on the Pig Race.

I hate dealing with this kind of stuff. I'm much more of a "let's all follow the rules and get along" kind of person.

Hubs commented, "You rush in and get over-involved. Let Them handle it."

I looked at him and said, "Honey, I'm the Them."


We also are in a quandary about DS#2's education. The local high school, where DS#1 and DD#1 have gone, is convenient and at one time set the educational standards for the school district. Last Thursday was "Back to School Night." Out of 1800 students, maybe 300 parents showed up. DS#2 has heard my ranting about education long enough that he warned me I wouldn't like his Social Studies teacher. He was right. I'm also reserving judgement on his English teacher as well.

But was discouraging was the physical plant and the attitude. The lockers in the boys' locker room are unsafe because kids have used crowbars to break into them. The chalkboard the Social Studies teacher uses is practically illegible because it hasn't been cleaned properly. (Not to mention the teacher's writing is pretty bad.) A friend of ours, whose son is a senior, told us there were over 50 kids in her son's Physics class. DS#1 had the same teacher for Physics as a senior; DD#1 had him for Chemistry last year. Even when there wasn't 50+ kids in the class, this particular teacher did not get the class ready for college-level courses--and the classes were listed as college-prep classes.

So we drove out to another school where some of our friends have transferred their children.

Oh. My. Gosh. What a difference in the physical plant. No graffiti. An Olympic pool. Clean classrooms. White boards. The textbooks that were displayed looked to be in good shape.

There are problems with this school as well. For one, it's in town with a much higher economic standard than where we live now. So there will be social pressures that the kids won't face at home. It's further out, which makes the school, and the social activities, a lot less convenient. (No picking up the kids with my slippers on!) There is no cultural diversity. I'm sure this school has its share of incompetent teachers and kids who are drug users and pushers.

DS#2 really wanted to go to the local Catholic high school where most of his classmates go. The education is excellent. It's $10,000/year, including books and fees, and that's just this year. While DS#1 and DD#1 are currently at community college, in two years (God willing!), they will be at four-year universities. And DD#2 will be ready for high school. Hubs and I did the math. While we might have been able to swing this year and possibly next, I wouldn't want to have to pull DS#2 out in two years. The more affluent school is an affordable alternative.

Part of me feels guilty for wanting to abandon ship. The Mama Bear in me realizes, however, that this child has only one shot to go through high school and he deserves the best education we can get him. We have watched the standards decline in our home school and the physical plant fall apart, despite the passage of several bond measures and Redevelopment money from the city. We have changed the members of the school board, we have changed Superintendents, and we have changed school principals. The problems have become worse. Many of the best teachers transferred when the newest high school opened; many others simply retired. I could fight for the changes that need to happen or I can spend that energy on my own children.

There are still good teachers at the local school. DS#2 has three of them: his Algebra I teacher, his Spanish teacher, and his Biology teacher. They have a great drama department and some innovative programs. I know several of the staff and DS#2 is known in our town, so I have plenty of help keeping tabs on him.

DS#2 is going to visit the school with a friend of his and check it out on his own. I will pray for guidance, but Hubs is pushing really, really hard for me to make this happen.