When the friends I have made over the course of my children’s middle school years introduce me to others, they often note that my youngest is at the by-lottery school, but they quickly add, “But if it were a neighborhood school, it would be their neighborhood school.” I joked the other night at a district-wide dinner honoring volunteers that I really need to have a tattoo to that effect put on my arm.
If that by-lottery school were a neighborhood school, it would be my kids’ neighborhood school. At least, I tell myself that but, given the idiocy at the district level when it comes to school boundaries, it’s possible that my home would be carved out of the boundary. But just my home, me being who I am.
It hit me Tuesday night, as I was leaving yet another school board meeting filled with accusations from the two sides of the aisle, that I am feeling a sense of shame. The supporters of the by-lottery school arrived wearing red in a show of unity. The detractors seemed to be wearing anything but red. It felt like the Bloods and the Crips were out. Actually, it was probably more like the Jets and the Sharks. At any moment, I expected to see Tony and Maria and switchblades and dancing.
I wore blue. I intentionally did not wear red, although I think I likely left the meeting red-faced. Red-faced with shame.
The parents of children at the by-lottery school do not love their children any more than the parents of children at other schools love their own children. The children at the by-lottery school are no smarter than the children at other schools. The children at the by-lottery school are no better than the children at the other schools. The teachers are no better than the teachers at other schools. The principal, God knows, is certainly no better than the principals at the other schools. The curriculum is no different.
There is but one difference: luck. By the luck of the lottery draw, your child “won” a spot. Not everyone tries to get their children into the by-lottery school. Some want them to go to their neighborhood school. But the luck of other children who would be attending their neighborhood school leaves the neighborhood schools with fewer parents who are college-educated and at higher socio-economic levels. The ones left behind by the rapture that is the by-lottery school have to bear a greater weight.
We started at the by-lottery school when the curriculum was markedly different, and it was a magnificent place for Eldest and then Daughter to be. But as the district pummeled out any differentiated instruction, the school ended up being just like any other school. Just like any other district school but without the trials and tribulations of non-English speaking children or children of a low socio-economic status.
I wore the red on my face because it has taken me a long time to get here: there is no plausible reason for that by-lottery school to continue to exist with zero specialized curriculum being offered. There is no plausible reason for it not becoming a neighborhood school. There is no plausible justification for making neighbors trek to schools farther away from their home when there is a school just like any other right down the block.
*The title? It's a mondegreen.