School choice and thriving children

We are a region rich with school choice. We choose between private/independent, Montessori, religious, charter and neighborhood public schools, all within our community. My first- and fourth-grade daughters are thriving in their school and getting the very best of these options. Here’s why:

  • They are in small classes of 18–21 kids.
  • They have amazing, committed, experienced teachers. My first-grader’s two teachers each has 24-plus years of experience, and each of my fourth-grader’s teachers has more than 15 years of experience.
  • A few years ago, when my older daughter was slower to pick up reading, she was moved to an ELA (English and Language Arts) group with only seven other classmates, learning 90-plus minutes per day from the most skilled ELA teacher in her school, until she quickly got on track.
  • My daughters have had weekly Spanish classes starting in kindergarten.
  • Our school has a phenomenal music program including (free!) orchestra with weekly lessons for fourth- and fifth-graders.
  • The on-site activities available after school every day of the week are too numerous to list, but my daughters have experienced modern dance, tumbling, karate and pottery.
  • Our school is an International Baccalaureate (IB) candidate with an aim to develop internationally minded people who, recognizing their common humanity and shared guardianship of the planet, help to create a better world by striving to be: inquirers, knowledgeable, thinkers, communicators, principled, open-minded, caring, risk-takers, balanced and reflective. My older daughter is a proud member of the student Ambassador Council charged with carrying out these IB values.

Based on what I’ve heard some friends, neighbors and acquaintances saying about our schools, you might not have guessed that my daughters are students at Fairfax Elementary, a public school in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights City School District. In addition to their academic development, my girls have experienced more religious, racial, socioeconomic, cultural and lifestyle diversity in their few short years of grade school than most people do in a lifetime.

A really lovely benefit of this diversity is that there is no expectation of sameness. I hear stories from friends (and remember my own) about the prevalence of cliques, social competition, and bullying for girls in more homogenous schools. My daughters have not experienced any such “mean girl” behavior at Fairfax, and individuality is expected and celebrated. Further, the community of parents is phenomenally supportive of one another. I find them to be an especially compassionate, intelligent, engaged and committed group of humans.

Fairfax Elementary School has been my family’s school home for five years now, and I am pleased to share that my daughters are absolutely thriving there. Cleveland Heights-University Heights public schools has been the very best choice for us!

Christie Yonkers

Christie Yonkers is a native Clevelander, having grown up on the West Side. She has lived in and loved Cleveland Heights, where she is raising her two school-aged daughters, for more than ten years. Yonkers is director of foundation relations at Cleveland Clinic.

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Volume 8, Issue 1, Posted 12:02 PM, 01.05.2015