It was a day I had been both looking forward to and dreading at the same time.
My sweet Logan Bear woke up, ran into my room, gave me a hug and said, “I’m a kindergartner now!”
He dressed himself in his new uniform and “kindergarten shoes,” eagerly arrived at school and started coloring a sheet with his new pack of crayons. My husband and I said hello to his teacher and watched him hang his Spider-Man backpack on the wall. We took a couple of pictures and tried not to linger too long.
As we left, I put on my sunglasses, hoping to hide tears.
“Don’t worry,” a teacher working the carpool said. “We’ll take good care of him.”
I knew she was right. But he’s my baby boy – my first-born – and this was a sure sign that he is growing up.
During the past five years, we have been asked many times where he would go to school. I said he would attend a public school, which would sometimes earn me a strange look as there is much social pressure in Mobile to send children to a private school or to move across the bay.
I graduated from a public school and I believe in public schools. My belief in public education was confirmed as I spent 11 years writing about K-12 education for the Press-Register. Now, working for the school system, it is my job to tell everyone about our schools. Wonderful things are happening in public education in Mobile.
That is why Logan is attending Mobile’s Mary B. Austin Elementary, a National Blue Ribbon school that has been recognized as one of the top schools in the country. In two years, his brother Garrett will join him.
For us, the question never really was: Public or private school? It was: Which public school?
We considered the magnet schools, which are all excellent. Council Traditional, which seems to be the public school of choice among my friends, is the only pre-International Baccalaureate school in South Alabama. Old Shell Road has one of the best arts programs in the state. And it’s hard to top Eichold-Mertz School of Math and Science, where students dig in the dirt and explore math and science in what the principal lovingly calls “a country day school.”
The only thing that did top the magnet schools in our minds was the opportunity to send both boys to our neighborhood school. My husband attended Mary B. Austin 30-something years ago. It’s close to our home and my work.
The principal, Amanda Jones, is enthusiastic, knowledgeable and welcoming, as are all of the teachers whose classrooms we’ve visited. I have heard nothing but wonderful things from parents whose children are there or have moved on to middle and high school well-prepared.
Though Austin is top-notch, the principal, staff and parents are constantly looking for ways to make it even better.
I am looking forward to Logan being able to use technology in the classroom through BYOD (Bring Your Own Device). He will be exposed to the arts and music with programs the PTA raises money to support.
Like all parents, I want what is best for him, and I know he’s going to get that at a Mobile County public school.
On that first day of school, 3 p.m. could not arrive fast enough as I visited four other public schools as part of my job and wondered about what my kindergartner was doing. When I picked Logan up from Mary B. Austin, I peppered him with questions about his big day.
“I love kindergarten,” he said, as he filled me in on some details: Mrs. Martin is a nice teacher who already knows his and everybody else’s name. If it’s raining a little bit, Old Ann – the school’s trademark oak tree – can keep students dry. And pizza, salad and strawberry milk make an excellent lunch.
“I made three friends today: Vaughn, Regan and Andrew,” he told me. “But don’t worry. I’m going to make more friends tomorrow.”
Editor’s Note: Rena Phillips is the Supervisor of Marketing and Education Partnerships for the Mobile County Public School System. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.