Losing What We Love About Our Schools

Losing What We Love About Our Schools

Baltimore’s public school system is in crisis. Again. In times of crisis people hunker down. Today, tomorrow, next week, next month—that’s all people can think about.

School-system leaders and politicians are scraping together plans to make it through to another day—or perhaps another school year. My own work, with my schools, is similar. Our network of three schools, which enroll 1,500 students, is facing budget gaps in excess of $1.5 million. Our school communities are confronting this monumental challenge now, trying to determine what’s important, what’s essential. There are no good decisions to be made. We are beset by something close to the worst case scenario. We’re trying to figure out how we can survive.

I’m engaged in all of this work. I live with it. I think about it all the time. I feel this pain. We’re in a crisis. The entire school system is in crisis. Only the now matters.

Around the city people are responding to the now. Thousands of people attended the Baltimore Education Coalition (BEC) rally in Annapolis Thursday night. Hundreds attended the Baltimoreans for Educational Equity (BEE) meeting on Wednesday night, and other groups are organizing advocacy events, as are individual schools. We are rallying around the now.

But there has to be more than the right now. The future comes on us whether or not we want it to.

Sonja Santelises said something the other day that is simply profound. We are, she warned, about to lose all the things about school that kids love. This got me thinking about the future. I wanted to understand this and wrestle with it. I just can’t accept it. We can’t accept this.

To keep what? That’s the question I keep coming back to. We’re about to lose all the things that kids love most about school, to keep what?

Answering that question should, I believe, lead us to the next generation, indeed the next quarter century, of planning and thinking about public education here in Baltimore City. In this blog I plan to write a lot about what this looks like—both for my own schools and for the broader school system.

For today, though, I keep coming back to this photograph  of an Afya student during our second year. Here she is, in her own little world, engaging in all the things that are great about school. She’s reading. She’s moving. She’s outside in the world. She’s living in her own little world.

Her name is Tayla. She is one single child in a moment and in a place. She is all the children of Baltimore. Repeat after me: We can’t lose all that we love about our schools. We can’t lose all that we love about our schools. We can’t lose all that we love about our schools.