I have a headache and a heartache over which schools to “choose” for my daughter. In this, I know I am not alone – as every grocery store, YMCA and church encounter with parents lucky enough to have newly-minted 5 year olds includes at least a mention of “what are you going to do about school next year?” within its discourse.
As promised, the following schools are the five that garnered my attention the evening of the Showcase: Barkstall, Dr. Howard, Booker T. Washington, Stratton and Garden Hills. I have interest in other schools as well however, it seems as though these are schools that both interest me AND I have a viable chance of gaining entry to. So, in order to make the choice a little easier – I have ruled out conceivably great schools like Carrie Busey, Westview and Bottenfield, which would also be investigated if I had more than a “snowball’s chance” of getting into them.
Barkstall – the school with the great reputation
Pros: Our Proximity A school, so close to home; uniforms (love); great reputation
Cons: A four strand school operating in a building built for three strands; balanced calendar (doesn’t fit well with our family calendar)
Dr. Howard – the school with the great gifted program
Pros: Legend-wait for it-dairy gifted program at the 4th/5th grade level; recommended by a friend from within the school system whom we trust; is on the list of “Future Facilities” upgrades within the next few year (no definite plans yet though), focus on parent involvement within the school, Rumor is they are piloting a 1st grade gifted program
Cons: Extremely old building; no uniforms; 7:45 AM start time
Booker T. Washington – the school with our friends
Pros: Love the STEM magnet and the partnership they currently have with the University; have multiple friends whose children attend here; within walking distance from my work; uniforms(love); several after school clubs throughout the year; new building with LOTS of technology
Cons: 9:00 start time is pretty late, but we could probably make it work…
Stratton – the school I didn’t think I was interested in
Pros: I am more excited about the magnet theme than I initially thought I would be (they added Stephen Covey’s The Leader in Me curriculum in addition to the micro-society which I learned more about from the Magnet Coordinator, who was quite engaging and passionate about the school theme.); uniforms (love); multi-age groups during the micro-society as well as a peer mentor program; close-ish to where I work,
Cons: 7:45 start time is pretty early, but we could probably make it work…
Garden Hills – the school with Mandarin Chinese
Pros: International Baccalaureate Program, which I have researched fairly extensively prior to hearing Garden Hills would be an IB school, which demands a high level of teacher engagement and continuing education on an on-going basis; exposure to a second language from an early age; this school seems to be most committed to the Nurtured Heart Program – of which I am a big fan; 8:30 start time (good middle ground); New Horizon community partnership; recently remodeled building with great technology
Cons: No uniforms; far from where I work
WHAT’S NEXT? Personally, my next step is to visit our family’s top two or three schools and hopefully have a chance to talk with the administrators in the building. I sincerely believe that the principal sets the tone for the entire building, so having the opportunity to meet this person I think will go a long way towards helping me finalize our rankings. I will also check out the ISBE report cards for some snap shot info about each school – personally I don’t put that much stock in “test scores” as it relates to my child, but I am still curious and find the information about average class size in each school interesting as well.
I would LOVE some feedback! I am always looking for more information and input to assist with this decision, so I would sincerely love to hear from parents who are already in the Unit 4 system, particularly those who are at one of the magnet schools. Leave a comment and let me know what you like about your school, have seen change, wish would change, etc. I would also love your feedback on what I perceive to be pros and cons – am I totally off base? Let me know, I am anxious to hear from you!
Erin (Trent) Tarr made the three-hour drive from Southern Illinois to Champaign in 1997 to attend the University of Illinois and never left. Mother of two beautiful girls (2 & 4 years old), she is currently working at the University of Illinois and enjoys reading non-fiction, listening to leadership podcasts, singing, taking pictures of her kids, and blogging at www.erintarr.com. The epitome of an extrovert, she is an active participant at Quest UMC and loves getting together with strong women for book clubs, writing clubs, and wine tastings. You can often find her (with two kids in tow) at Champaign Centennial sporting events where her beloved husband of nine years, Adam, works as an Athletic Trainer.