In 2007, I walked into a small theater to learn about Blackstone Valley Prep, a school in Cumberland, RI. To my surprise, this event was not an informational session about one of Cumberland’s existing public schools. Instead it was a hearing conducted by the Rhode Island Board of Regents to determine whether or not a new Mayoral Academy should be approved within our town. I learned that without the proposed school I would have only one option for my son in the fall. I entered the theater hoping to hear about one of the educational choices available to my child in public education, but I had assumed choice when there was no choice available.
I listened, energized by the potential of this school’s mission and philosophy. But on either side of me I watched my friends and neighbors hesitate. Change is frightening. Change is hard work - even change for the better. I took the microphone that night without hesitation because when it comes to raising children, choice is the best parenting tool around.
Today I have a second grade boy and twins in the first grade at the first Rhode Island Mayoral Academy, Blackstone Valley Prep. Maya and Parker started their journey toward college at BVP in the kindergarten class of 2027. Logan spent nearly two years at Garvin Memorial School in Cumberland before he was asked to be a scholar at BVP in the first-grade class of 2026. I have seen what both the traditional public schools and public charter schools have to offer to the children of Cumberland. I have seen both change and choice make us a stronger community. I send my children to a school with values similar to my own because Blackstone Valley Prep is my choice and it is the right fit for our family. Every day my children are encouraged to choose for themselves: fiction, non-fiction, math, science, music, art and so much more. They are taught to value perseverance, respect, integrity, discipline, enthusiasm and how to make decisions that are right not only for themselves and but for others. In the end, Maya, Parker and Logan are ready to take on college and beyond because their mother has never had to tell them “I’m sorry, I have no choice.”
The conversation Cumberland residents had that night in 2007 at the hearing for Blackstone Valley Prep was a tough but necessary one. I look forward to sparking similar conversations here on RI-CAN’s blog as an advocate for not only my family, but for others like mine across the state. Every family in Rhode Island deserves to choose the best school for their kids
Tracey Dann is a RI-CAN School Reform Blogging Fellow.