Reimagining Education

The Promise of a Good Education

Kate Casas, State Director, Children’s Education Alliance of Missouri

I live with my 17 month old daughter and husband in the Tower Grove East neighborhood of Saint Louis City. I love, love, love my neighborhood. The streets are lined with beautiful trees, I can walk to the park and a variety of restaurants, my mom lives around the corner and my sister and her husband just bought a house a few blocks away. The neighbors say “hi”, we mow each others’ lawns and we watch out for each others’ children. It is truly a fabulous place to live.

Most of the children I live near are going to private schools, a few are in the voluntary desegregation program, a couple are going to magnet schools, I know of two who are going to charter schools in other parts of the city, and a handful (a very small handful) are going to the Saint Louis Public neighborhood School, Shenandoah (full disclosure, I worked at Shenandoah as a fourth grade teacher for two years). None of these are bad options, and they very well may be the right options for the families that have chosen them. However, I couldn’t have been more excited when I heard that South City Prep, a new charter school that promises to prepare children for college, was moving to Tower Grove East. This will be an option for parents in my neighborhood and the surrounding ones who are desperate to find a school that will prepare their children for a happy fulfilling life in the 21st century.

This story that aired on KWMU this week, and featured South City Prep, highlights the trials and tribulations that many families, including many of my neighbors, face when searching for a school for their children. It also points out that the charter school movement in St. Louis hasn’t gotten it 100% correct yet—a reality that I acknowledge. However, I would say, that the charter schools that have opened in the City since 2007 are on the right track while Saint Louis Public Schools are still struggling to make strides toward accreditation.  I do agree with SLPS superintendent, Dr. Adams’ statement in this story that charter schools, and public schools alike that aren’t performing should be shuttered. In fact, I actually believe charter schools should be held to a higher standard since their limited bureaucracy and ability to make quick decision/changes is one of the advantages of charters over traditional private schools.

 I know the leadership of South City Prep and I believe that they have an extraordinary amount knowledge, drive and dedication to creating a high quality neighborhood educational option. I am confident that they can make dreams come true for the families of Tower Grove East and our neighboring communities. I am also confident, however, that the leadership at South City Prep wouldn’t be surprised to hear that if they don’t make steady progress from year to year, or they fail to live up to their promise to my neighbors, I will be the first one in line asking for them to close. That being said, I can’t wait to see all the happy faces, full of promise, walking to school come Monday morning.

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