For those of us who live in Seattle, it’s the first day of school today. My son is now a high school sophomore, but as in years past, I reminisce today about that first day of kindergarten. We had bought our house six months earlier, so that we would be in the area of one of the best schools in the city. The school bus would pick Sam up just a couple blocks from our house – I remember meeting the bus “pros” at the bus stop, parents who had been doing this year after year. I remember the excitement I felt picking him up at school that first day, waiting to hear about all the wonderful things he learned at school and about all his new friends.
Jump forward to 10th grade. Sam drove to school today for the first time. No more school buses or Metro. He left the house 20 minutes earlier than he needed to, he was so excited to get to school, to get his schedule, to see his friends. I’m feeling similar excitement to that kindergarten day, wanting to know about his classes, his teachers, his friends.
Schools are one aspect of neighborhood and community. For those with children, it’s a critical component. As you choose a neighborhood to live in, many people are concerned about the schools. Is it a “good school?” How will my child get there? Are there after school activities or child care?
Today I’d like to answer the question, “is it a good school.” There are many different definitions of a good school. For many, they look at test scores or classroom size. Others look at on-line rankings such as those provided by Great Schools. But there are other factors to consider. Teacher retention rates? Principal longevity? Involved parent group? Welcoming atmosphere whenever you enter the building? Ability to work with students with different learning styles? Necessary support services or after school care?
As I’ve learned over the past years, there is no formula to determine a good school. If I had to pick the most important factor, I’d say community – the parent group, the welcoming atmosphere, the support services. Test scores are numbers, people make up community. Relationships with fellow parents, with teachers, and with administration is critical. Feeling welcome and respected is critical.
From our experience, the school with the best test scores was not the best fit for Sam. The best schools are the ones who create a community.
As my tagline says, “Building Community. One Home at a Time.” Let me help you find that right community.