I originally wrote a four-page first draft of my final post to the SFK Files to declare our school choice. It was TMI and pretty boring. It became a rebuttal to all the critiques we have heard or assume we will hear from friends, family, and blog readers and a long list of all the factors that played into our decision-making. So I am scrapping that draft and taking 20 minutes (ok, it's longer now) to write the basics. However, this might not be my last post. I still have a lot to say about CTIP1.
My husband and I have decided to send our daughter to Hamlin next year. It was a tough decision complicated by our love of Rooftop and many other public schools (not just the trophy schools) in San Francisco.
As parents, we want our kids to grow up and do meaningful work that they love and that pays their bills. We want our children to challenge themselves, think critically and creatively, dream big dreams and commit themselves to giving back to the world. We want them to be their authentic selves and to be grounded by their family and community. As a mama of color raising a daughter (and son) in the Bayview, I know there are things that my daughter will have to overcome because of her race, class and gender, obstacles to actualizing her dreams. I know that the disparity between the rich and the poor is growing and that the “middle-class” jobs many of us love and were educated/trained to do are disappearing or the salary is not keeping up with inflation.
Knowing this, we want our daughter to be in an environment that supports her socially and personally, that understands and values diversity, that challenges her to be a leader, that has solid academics, that opens doors to STEM careers in case she might be interested in pursuing them, and that gives her opportunities beyond the limitations of our neighborhood, community and family. During the fall and winter we kept going back to Hamlin events, because it surprised us that this school in Pacific Heights seemed to speak to the realities of our experiences and the hopes we have for our daughter. It wasn’t that Rooftop would not be able to do these things, but they didn't say too much about them.
There were two things Hamlin moms told me that I keep thinking about:
- I know for sure that in their lifetime my daughters are going to face discrimination because of the color of their skin and their gender. I need them to not only believe in themselves, but also to have the solid academics to back that up. - She was certain her daughters were getting both at Hamlin.
- “I need to know that her school makes sure she learns to stand up for herself and for others, and that she feels safe there all the time so that her mind is free to learn. I need to know that she sees women of color in positions of authority, so that when she is older and bumps into a glass ceiling, her idea of who should be in charge is so ingrained that she does not question where she should be.”
There was something special about the leadership at Hamlin, the openness in talking about the school's problems, the critical dialogue that the whole community seemed to be engaged in to make the school better. The mission of the school is so relevant, "The Hamlin School educates girls to meet the challenges of their time and inspires them to become extraordinary thinkers and innovators, courageous leaders, and women of integrity.” The sincerity of the Head of School as she talks about developing leadership in young women and supporting them to become their authentic selves would set just the right tone for our daughter. Our daughter will love it and live it. And, while I want to support public education, a part of me is really relieved to send my daughter to a school where test scores are not directly related to funding and teachers have more support and resources for professional development.
Yes, I have a lot of guilt about choosing private school over public school. The silence after I mentioned our school choices to our pro-public activist friends was more than uncomfortable, but with an offer of admission and financial aid to make it do-able we couldn’t pass up this opportunity. I have no delusions about this being a “perfect school.” There is no such thing. We are interested to see how this "rigor and joy" actually plays out. We will definitely continue to ground our daughter in her community, be vigilant when issues of race/class come up, teach her more about her family history and culture and make sure her world is way bigger than Hamlin. But we would be doing that for her regardless of the school she was at and while we are not money-rich, we are community and family-rich. This is our strength. We don’t know if our child will later be diagnosed with a learning disability, if our financial aid will go down making Hamlin unaffordable and/or if the school just isn't a good fit, but from what we saw and heard from the people who are there now, we only got the impression that it would be a great opportunity for our daughter. We will be evaluating and reevaluating our decision each year to see if the school continues to fit our mission, vision, goals and budget as a family. We'll take things as they come.