Public schools offer diversity, prepare students for the ‘real world’

Published 12:00 am Thursday, January 29, 2015

Note: Over the next few weeks I will be taking a look at why parents choose private, public or home education for their children. Each type of school is beautiful in its own way, and in no way am I promoting one over the other.

Anne Ellis is pro-public school, but even as a public school teacher, she started her children out in private school.

By the time her son, Jude, was in fourth grade, however, Ellis and her husband decided it would be best for him to make the transition to public school.

It’s a decision she says she doesn’t regret.

Although the price of public schools played a factor in the switch, it wasn’t the deciding factor.

Public and private school are “two different paths to get to the same end,” Ellis said, but added that she felt the public school environment and academics will prepare her children better for college and the rest of life.

“I realized realistically that the real world is out there,” Ellis said.

She knew that her children wouldn’t always be sheltered and felt they needed to go ahead and learn the social and coping skills needed to deal with people from a broad spectrum of backgrounds

The transition was “very effortless” for Jude, Ellis said.

He was used to “small classes and close relationships with teachers” at his private school, but the transition to public school didn’t change that, she added.

He still enjoys those close relationships and has the added ability to immerse himself in a wide variety of extracurricular activities that weren’t available at his private school.

Placing him in public school “has made him more sensitive, more empathetic and more outgoing,” Ellis said. “He has and continues to thrive in school and life.”

“He’s grown a lot. He’s matured a lot. He’s been around a lot more experiences – both good and bad,” she said.

Ellis’ daughter Stella spent one year in junior kindergarten at a private school, but has attended public school since kindergarten.

“It’s been perfect for her. She’s really excelled,” Ellis said. “Both of her teachers have gone out of their way to push her and push her.”

Although Stella excels in reading, she doesn’t get bored in class because her teachers have identified that and have given her opportunities to grow while participating alongside her peers.

“She has excelled exponentially,” Ellis said.

Ellis doesn’t just know public school from the parent’s point of view, however. She’s spent nearly 20 years as a public school teacher.

“We are here because we love education,” she said, adding that she wanted her children to be a part of that.

“You’re not going to meet a teacher who says they’re there for the paycheck,” Ellis said.

Each parent has to make the best decision for their own children, however, she said.

“Regardless of what school you pick, stay involved, keep on top of it and know what’s going on in the classroom,” Ellis added.

Post intern Megan Braun is a senior at North Rowan High School. She’s spent her entire education career in Rowan-Salisbury schools, and she said she wouldn’t do it any other way.

“I have had the opportunity to choose from a wide variety of classes and have amazing teachers,” she said. “Public school has allowed me to interact with people from all different backgrounds.”

Braun added that she feels those interactions have prepared her for the “real world.”

“Nothing is sugar-coated, and you have to grow up fairly quickly in order to stay afloat,” she said.

When I moved to Salisbury to take my position as education reporter at the Salisbury Post, I thought my job would be easy. I was a recent graduate and remembered my years in school vividly.

I soon realized, however, that I had absolutely no understanding of how a public school system works.

Over the past year, however, I’ve learned a lot, and I’ve come to respect and appreciate the teachers and administrators that make the Rowan-Salisbury School System and Kannapolis City Schools work.

I can’t help but look up to the teachers who keep coming to work year after year in a state with one of the worst rates for teacher pay in districts with supplements that aren’t the least bit competitive. I’ve come to admire the teachers who make do with little financial support, changing curriculum and big expectations, and I’m inspired by administrators like Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody who lead with passion and a drive for excellence.