Thankful for a great school and those who made it

I doubt I’ll ever play the lottery again. One jackpot seems like enough.

Several months ago, I wrote about living through a lottery to select students for a new charter school. Our son, one of 240 kids who applied for just 50 kindergarten slots at the k-8 school, landed high on the waiting list. A few weeks later, we learned he was in.

The nervousness my wife and I had felt until that day gave way to real joy and gratitude. We had studied this possibility, talked about it, prayed about it for months. Now we held it in our hands.

Once the sheer giddiness wore off, we felt a new kind of nervousness. It wasn’t as sharp as the earlier one, but it was there nonetheless. We had soaring expectations for a school that existed only on paper. It hadn’t opened its doors to students even a single day; heck, it as yet didn’t have a building with doors to open.

Could Atlanta Classical Academy possibly live up to our expectations?

Three months into the school year, the answer is yes — and then some.

I could tell you about the professionalism of the board and the staff. I could tell you about the fact ACA puts its students in front of a music or art teacher every day, at a time when schools are cutting fine arts programs, or that it also provides all the crayons, pencils, glue and other things they need. All on a below-average, public-school budget.

I could tell you about the rigor with which my son and his classmates are taught reading, writing and arithmetic … and Spanish, science, history and geography. I could tell you about the poems and songs these kids — kindergartners, remember — have memorized and recited in front of their peers.

I could tell you about the way his teacher keeps us in the loop with a brief homework assignment each night and a weekly newsletter. I could tell you about her kindness and flexibility in handling his boyish squirminess.

I could tell you about the day, early on, our rambunctious 5-year-old came home and said, “Guess what word we learned today? Self-government!” And how that night, without being asked, he got himself ready for bed and tried to do his homework on his own (even though he couldn’t yet read).

But if you’ve ever had the pleasure of seeing a great school in action, I don’t have to tell you. And if you’ve ever seen up-close a school that falls well short of greatness, I don’t have to tell you its students need something far better.

I’m thankful for a public school that aims high, and for its goal of building “intelligent, virtuous citizens” who will “learn the true, do the good and love the beautiful,” as defined over the centuries.

I’m thankful for teachers who worked hard before they even had classrooms, and for administrators who worked hard before they hired the first teacher. I’m thankful for the board members who devoted more than a year to building a wonderful school.

I’ll be a lot more thankful when all parents in Georgia can say their children are in great schools, without winning a lottery.

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