It Takes a Village

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by Aiyshen Padilla and Llew Brown

Today was a good day. I witnessed an event at Bowie High School that reminded me of all the good that happens when we work together. I was reminded that although we don’t literally live in villages, we still need the support of the village community, especially for our young people.

My village is comprised of both rich and poor. Parents who can afford the best for their children and don’t need help, and parents who desperately need help so their children can grow up healthy with the opportunity to reach their full potential. A community of people who send their kids to private school, and a growing contingent of committed parents who are investing in their local public school. That is where I fall. I believe in public schools and the children who attend them. I am committed to helping change schools for the better.

As parents, we all want the best for our children, but so often we don’t know what is needed or how to get it done. So we came together. It was during a conversation after a Parent Teacher Student Organization (PTSO) meeting this past February when the idea blossomed to create the 9th grade Grade Point Average (GPA) Challenge at Bowie High School. This initiative was a great opportunity to show how we can all come together as a village – parents, administrators, the school board and local businesses.

The Challenge:  The concept was simple: Challenge the 9th graders at Bowie High School to improve their GPA by 10% between the 2nd and 3rd quarters (the third quarter ended March 24, 2017). Make it open to all 9th graders, not just the usual suspects — the high achievers. Invite them to a celebration event at the end of the challenge. Provide certificates of achievement to the students that met the goal and enter them into a raffle for a chance to win gift cards from local establishments. One goal of the program was to inspire other busy parents to get involved in a highly visible way with the school and their student, during future initiatives. Another was to demonstrate a true collaboration across stakeholders in our community.

The Village:  Several parents joined forces to implement the challenge. Collaborating mostly through conference calls and email, extra tutoring was arranged, a menu for the party was developed, and strategies for securing additional support were executed. For example, businesses and a school board representative provided much-needed funds for supplies and food. Additional families donated to the cause. School administrators promoted the GPA challenge by including mention of the challenge during the school’s morning announcements. Administrators also crunched the data and created the space for the celebration to occur.

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Our Transition from Private to Public School

by Llew B.

file_000Make no mistake, parents are having tough conversations about school choices this time of year. It was no different for my family last fall when discussing options for my daughter, who at the time was in 8th grade and beginning her 6th and final year at a parochial school in Bowie. Fast forward to 2016, and we’re a couple of months into her transition to Bowie High School (BHS). I’m writing to share my own thoughts on my daughter’s transition and suggestions for middle school parents and Prince George’s County Public School (PGCPS) officials.

Why We Chose Public

Financial considerations were a primary factor in our decision to transition from private to public high school. Yearly tuition for private high school tends to be substantially higher than it is for the middle grades. A family could easily spend $60K for high school over four years, compared to $30K or more in middle school, over the same time period. Furthermore, our second child would enter high school in my daughter’s junior year, and we assumed there would again be a period of overlap in college.

We engaged in a number of information gathering activities to help us make a more informed decision. To better understand public school options, we investigated specialty programs for highly motivated students (ex. Summit at Bowie High), toured the facility for 9th grade students at BHS, and met with several BHS students and their parents. Our key findings were not surprising. We did not discover a treasure trove of gleaming facilities, but we didmeet staff and parents with similar goals. The students we spoke with described experiences that were fair to positive, and we heard no anecdotes that were cause for alarm.

Last but certainly not least, there was an element of hope for potential improvement in our public schools, over time. Through Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Public Schools (PGCABS) and other venues, I began meeting people interested in public school advocacy, and I interacted with various levels of PGCPS administrators who seemed to welcome outreach from people in the community.

The Transition

We’re only two months into the high school journey, but my daughter is doing fine. Below I provide comments ranging from the social environment to academics.

Social environment

High on the list of factors that impact the adjustment to high school is the ease at which a student makes new friends. While the majority of 9th grade students appear to come from the public middle schools that feed into BHS, it appears that a sizeable number of students are new to the area and my daughter has made a number of friends from this pool. Also, school spirit seems to be fairly high from what I gathered while volunteering during homecoming week.

Transportation

I’m pleased to report that we have had no significant issues with transportation. I’m aware that transportation issues are a major concern for students county-wide.

Safety

The environment seems to be safe and orderly. My daughter has stated that in most of her classes, students actively participate and there is minimal disruption to the daily routine.

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