LETTER: Why private schools matter in Greenwich

FI-Letter-to-the-EditorTo the Editor:

I always knew I would send my children to private school. It wouldn’t matter what it would take. I would sell everything I owned, work three jobs (as I did for over 15 years), if necessary, live in 500 square feet. Perhaps, not for the reason that every Greenwich family chooses private education, like increasing the odds of their children going to an Ivy, the reasons for me are: a values-based education and the belief that parents are the first educators of their children, that strong home-school collaboration is critical, that modern public schools’ teaching methods are still fixated on the industrial revolution.

So much time is wasted “housing kids” in public educational buildings—so much money goes in the pockets of “administrating” said schools, meanwhile the teacher is expected to inspire in the impossible ratio of 1 to 22. There is a reason we think of preschools as having the “right” number of students and teachers, play, learning, inspiration and movement. Somehow, after preschool, public schools have amnesia when it comes to what children need from school. And, yet, the great innovators of our time, Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, Dr. Marion Diamond, all tell us that “play” and “out of the box thinking” is what companies are looking for today.

Then there is my belief in what a teacher should be. Yes, it might sound idealistic, but I believe a teacher should be an inspired soul who sees teaching as a vocation, a calling–and sees parents as partners who will join them as they seek to light the lamp of every student’s soul. Parents should have the right to “meet” their child’s teachers, yes, every single one of them, every single year they are schooled.

I remember at an orientation meeting I attended at a Greenwich Public School. The teachers, who had something like 60 years of classroom experience between them, stood up in front of the parents sitting in folded chairs and told them the following, “If you will start to teach your children the ABCs before school starts, that will go a long way in helping them.”

I was dumbfounded. The teachers truly believed that the parents in the room had yet to teach their four and five year olds the ABCs? What about the $20K+ these parents had spent thus far for preschool education? How patronizing. Was it because this was one of the three public elementary schools in Greenwich that does not have 98% white students that they thought this was the “readiness” advice “these” parents needed to hear? That these parents had not spent thousands on books, Leap Frog instructional games, $40,000K on two years of preschool, that they didn’t read to their children every night before bed?

Patronizing. Ironically, it is the public schools in Greenwich that have the market cornered on talking down to parents and being close-minded, not private schools. Want to challenge this statement? Call up your zoned public school and state that you want to take a tour and meet the potential teacher of your child’s coming year and–while you are there–look at the curriculum. Now, do the same at two private schools in Greenwich. You will find one will give you mumbo-jumbo speak the others will act like you have given them a compliment, that finally they have met a person who can appreciate all that they have to offer!

I wanted to believe in Greenwich’s Public Schools.

Sadly, Greenwich’s Public schools are horribly segregated, in need of serious reshuffling of teachers, and at this point, we must all honestly admit, callous to the importance of providing a top-notch, quality, desegregated and inspiring preschool education—equally—to every child. The number one solution to solving the “achievement gap” in Greenwich has been tragically “forgotten” by educational administrators—making 200,000+ dollars a year. Study after study after study, even though they learned this while getting their Masters in Education, has found that early childhood education is the key preventable factor between children who become the haves versus the have nots.

Sure Greenwich has some good public schools. Greenwich High, minus its bullying culture, is a good school. But the achievement gap in Greenwich’s elementary schools is unconscionable. Private Schools in Greenwich will continue to not just survive but thrive. Currently there are 10 private schools serving nearly 5,000 students. I predict five more private schools will spring up in Greenwich over the next 10 year and 5,000 more students and their parents will walk—no–run away from Greenwich’s patronizing and segregated elementary schools. No wonder admission applications to Greenwich’s private schools are booming and several schools are undergoing million dollar upgrades and expansions.

Parents who expect teachers to view every child as having limitless potential will lead the way; parents who demand that their children are not educated in environmentally toxic environments will sustain private schools that are pollution free.

Choice always scares people who are afraid of input, collaboration and high expectations. I commend Brunswick school for not waiting any longer for the Greenwich Public Schools to reach out to the marginalized children stuck in Greenwich’s unethically “differentiated” and underperforming schools.

Yes, it takes private schools and private citizens to ensure a dignified education for all. Swim lessons, too.

Jodi Weisz


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