After I returned from an education reporters’ conference and caught up on the follow-up coverage of the Piedmont Avenue Elementary School incident, I was struck by the ending quote in Erik Nelson’s story:
Parents at the school have worked hard to convince community residents the school is safe and worthy of sending their children to instead of private school, said Dave and Caitlin Martindale, who have a kindergartener at the school.
“It’s hopefully not going to set things back,” Dave Martindale said, adding, “but people believe what they read in the newspapers.”
I live near Piedmont Avenue — where BayWolf diners enjoy braised duck and wine pairings (around the corner from the revving bikes in front of Egbert Souse’s dive bar), and where Cesar patrons sip cocktails over pricey tapas dishes.
Granted, my demographic expertise is mostly limited to observations made while strolling the neighborhood, grocery shopping and waiting in line at Fenton’s Creamery.
But I was slightly surprised to see that just 6 percent of the 345 children enrolled at Piedmont Avenue Elementary this year are white, and that roughly half come from low-income families, according to demographic data reported to the California Department of Education.
Then I looked at a map handed out last week at an enrollment forum (see Slide #5 in the OUSD presentation). Less than 25 percent of neighborhood families chose Piedmont Avenue Elementary as their top choice for the 2008-09 school year.
Last year, I wrote a series about the factors at play when families choose schools for their kids. Race and class were at the top. But one issue that I now realize that I overlooked was safety, or perceptions of safety.
If you were already set on attending a particular school and you learned that a young child had lost his front teeth and, later, suffered a head injury, would you change your mind?
What questions would you ask the principal about how the school handles discipline and after-school supervision, and what would you hope to hear?
Is suspension data on the check list, along with test scores, when parents are exploring school options? What do you think it tells you?