What I Love about Our Public School District

From the beginning of their educational careers, our boys have always been enrolled in public school, but that is about to change. Due to problems within the leadership of our public school district, we are placing them in private school for the upcoming school year. This has not been an easy decision for us, and as we leave, I feel the need to underscore the positive things about our district. That's what this post is about. It is a post that I wrote for the website of Change150, an organization devoted to uniting the Peoria community in order to celebrate the good things the district is doing and to advocate for needed change in the district's leadership, administrative practices, and communication. For the past year, I have been the president of this organization, so I have learned much about the problems the district faces, yet as a parent, I already know about the blessings of PSD 150. Let me share those with you now...

First, we have a large school district that offers parents and children choices that smaller districts cannot always provide, including Peoria Promise, International Baccalaureate, Quest, the STAR program, Washington Gifted, the Career and Technical Center at Woodruff, and even Edison in previous years. The size of our district provides resources and opportunities that not many school systems can match. It is my hope that the leadership of PSD 150 will leverage and expand these options because they comprise a strength that benefits students and keeps families engaged—families who may be tempted to leave otherwise.

Second, PSD 150’s ethnic and religious diversity allows people from various backgrounds, cultures, and preferences to feel welcome and connected. Both of my children attended schools where they were in the minority, which is a healthy experience for a middle-class white family. My boys have been introduced to the languages of Chinese and Spanish; they have interacted with children from India, Vietnam, Nigeria, etc., and they have spent time with children from Christian, Hindu, Islamic, and even atheist worldviews, which opens their eyes and personalizes a world that is rapidly changing and steadily becoming smaller.

Third, I believe PSD 150 offers incredible support services for special needs children. Whether it’s transportation, aids, or specialists, such as speech pathologists, physical or occupational therapists, inclusion teachers, translators, interpreters, etc., I have seen firsthand the incredible services PSD 150 offers. These services are even more impressive when one considers the large number of IEPs served. So, I cannot say enough good about the way PSD 150 serves special needs children with commitment, passion, and results.

Fourth, I have met a countless number of dedicated teachers, principals, and support staff. Most people do not go into education, especially into a large, urban school district, because of the pay. Rather, they do so because they love kids and want to make a difference. I am doubly impressed by the fact that over the past couple of years—in the midst of a culture of fear, intimidation, and heavy-handed leadership—a majority of the employees have continued to show up and give their best. Furthermore, they have sheltered our children from the micromanaged, often oppressive work environment they have had to endure. There are always a few bad apples, but by and large, the teachers and staff of PSD 150 have amazed me with the compassion and commitment they have displayed to my family.

When we moved to Peoria several years back, we were not too keen on PSD 150, but when our oldest son attended the STAR program at Charter Oak and then later at Northmoor, we began to see that this district had much more to offer than we ever expected. When it came time for us to move, we intentionally choose to stay within the boundaries of PSD 150. And up until this past year, we have had no regrets. Overall, it’s been a great experience, but unfortunately, the events of the past year have forced us to make the difficult decision of putting our children into private school for the upcoming year. I’ll address the reasons for that in my next post.