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Mom’s tale of improvement after kids attend charter school

New York Post
March 4, 2015

By Yvonne Guillen

Yvonne Guillen is a New York City mother of three who enrolled her children at a Bronx charter school after a terrible experience at a district school. She’s now pushing legislators in Albany to end the state’s “failing-schools crisis” by increasing the number of charter schools in the state. She’s traveling to Albany on Wednesday to stand with thousands of other parents to support opening new charter schools.

As the parent of three school-age children, I have been witness to how rare a good school with dedicated, caring teachers is for children in many of New York’s neighborhoods.

Indeed, most of our cities are filled with failing schools, and too many futures have been stolen from New York’s children.

That’s why I’ll be traveling to Albany this Wednesday to stand with thousands of others in the state Capitol to make the biggest, boldest push yet for an end to this state’s failing-schools crisis.

Every parent has a reason to stand with us on Wednesday. Here’s mine.

I used to live in Yonkers. Three years ago, when my daughter Carisma was ready for kindergarten, I enrolled her in the local district school. A few months later, I moved to The Bronx, but I kept Carisma in the Yonkers school because I heard that schools there were better than schools in The Bronx.

At first, everything seemed fine. But when my daughter was in first grade, her teacher wrote me that Carisma was going to be held back because she was performing below standards.

I tried to set up appointments with the teacher, but it was difficult to find time when she could talk. When we did manage to sit down, the teacher would only tell me that Carisma was shy and didn’t speak up in class.

She couldn’t tell me why or what they could do for her. They couldn’t help her, even though she wasn’t doing well.

I wish every parent could experience what happened to me next.

I applied to Girls Prep Bronx Elementary School, but Carisma was wait-listed. Fortunately, last year, my daughter Leilany got into kindergarten at Girls Prep, and thanks to sibling preference, Carisma was accepted as well.

I saw the difference instantly. Three weeks after Carisma started second grade at Girls Prep, I could see a more confident, educated child who suddenly had a sense for what was possible in her future.

Carisma is now in third grade and doing phenomenally well. She’s one of the top girls in her class, and her teacher can’t even believe she’s only been at Girls Prep for one year.

Her teacher doesn’t know what it’s like to be a child in a failing district school.

Girls Prep is the sort of school ­every child should have the chance to attend. I’m fortunate that my two girls and my son, Lucian, who is in Public Prep’s pre-K program, found seats in such great schools.

Yes, my children are in a good place. But what about other kids?

That’s why I’m going to stand with thousands of people in Albany at Wednesday’s rally to demand an end to this failing-schools crisis.

All children need good schools. As parents, it’s our job to do everything we can to make sure great ­options are available for everyone’s kids.

We can’t leave our children in failing district schools — we have to expand the number of charters to give New York’s students a chance.

In The Bronx alone, 65,000 children are stuck in failing schools. Citywide, 800,000 children in grades 3-8 are unable to meet grade standards.

Every one of those kids deserves a good education across the board, just as mine do. It’s unfair that some children can’t go to a good school just because of the neighborhood or the ZIP code they live in.

It will be cold on Wednesday, but the thousands of parents, students and educators will be there to send a clear message to the governor and Legislature: New York’s failing-schools crisis ends now.