A guide to what we’ve done to get ourselves here and then what we’re doing to get ourselves out. Here’s hoping for happy endings
Saturday, October 24, 2009
THE EDUCATION OF EMMY
This really came as no surprise but Madison was named by Children’sHealth as the second best place to raise a kid and since we have one we were pretty excited about the announcement. Not everyone has the opportunity we had in starting over. We didn’t have many choices. My family lived in Madison, all of them. Our move was going to be to Madison or to…Madison. So when Children’sHealth announced on the “Today Show” that Madison was second on its list of best places to raise a kid, we were very happy with the cards we were forced into playing. With criteria like childhood obesity, air quality, education, cultural opportunities and the number of fast food restaurants per capita, raising Emmy here was going to provide us with a better set of tools for helping a thirteen year old. Of course we had already known about many of these advantages. One, in particular, we had seen up close and personal was education. My sister, Ebby, has taught kindergarten for over twenty years in the Madison school system and has been at the forefront of some of the more progressive programs initiated into the system. She was named Madison teacher of the year, she has been at the forefront of new teaching methods and she waged a petition with the board of education to allow her to bring her dog to school as a teaching aide. She also created an outdoor forest in the interior courtyard of her school as a year round nature preserve. The school, itself, is a vintage example of the arts and crafts movement of the 1920’s with built-in bookcases and a fireplace tiled with a Jack and Jill nursery rhyme. Parents from outside her district regularly petition to get their child enrolled in my sister's class. Earlier in the year we watched her kids build a three-dimensional town out of old cardboard boxes and clay and then gasped in horror as she set a home on fire because they forgot to build a firehouse in their make-believe village. It was a small lesson in observation and in what makes a town.
For Emmy, her school placement did not happen by chance. Prior to moving to Madison we investigated all of the available schools in the area. Unfortunately, the middle school in the district my mom's house was in did not show up with rave reviews. It was a troubled school with a transient student body. One district over was a middle school rated one of the top 200 middle schools in the country but we weren’t sure how we could get her in on such short notice. What we decided on was the middle school that her cousins were going to attend. This was a much easier fix for us. We found a way around residency requirements by assigning my sister co-guardianship of Emmy. This gave Emmy the entry into her new school. Emmy’s school is one of the newer schools in the area and was built as a green, energy efficient edifice. This is so Madison. The building is so efficient it takes less than eighteen cents per day to run the heat and electricity for the entire school. Chalk that up to Scandinavian penny pinching ingenuity. Top this off with the fact that Emmy loves every one of her classes and teachers and I think we hit an educational home run.
If you have kids, make sure you know what the educational system looks like in your new city. Don’t assume you don’t have any choices. Many schools offer open enrollment for kids outside their districts and there are usually ways of bending the rules if you really want to dig deep enough.