In my back-to-school post on BVP Musings (What the First Day of a New School Year Means To Me:  Thoughts from a Converted Comfort-Seeker and Rhode Island Mayoral Academies Chief Communications Officer), I wrote about remembering the first day of school and the initial feelings of
anxiety—wanting everything to settle and feel comfortable.

I reflected on how, as an adult, I realized one must embrace
discomfort in order to learn and grow from experiences you might not otherwise
have.

At the beginning of this school year, I was—in my own way—a
new student. I had just joined the team at Rhode Island Mayoral Academies and
had newly returned to my home state from Chicago after six years. I felt, once
again, those old pangs of anxiety. Would my new work be fulfilling? Would I fit
in? Would my co-workers think me an asset to the team?

At the time, I had no idea how much I would re-learn
the lesson I had written on. It has been a year of learning, growing, and reflecting.
In my previous position at the University of Chicago, I was communications
director for a charter school, but I also split time with a number of other
programs including the STEP literacy assessment and the Urban Teacher Education
Program. In Chicago—the 3rd
largest school district in the country— education “reform” is a much larger
enterprise and many shoulder the responsibility of fighting for its value. Here,
in the smallest state in the nation, the fight falls to the few. It has been an
adjustment to be at the center of so much emotion, controversy, and
misunderstanding. 

Yet, here, I have never been so humbled and inspired. Everyday,
I’m moved by our mayoral academy families who have had to fight consistently in
order to protect their public school choice.  It’s not right. It’s not fair. I sometimes balk
at the fact that I have to ask families—repeatedly—to take yet another moment
away from their lives to stand up, testify, and show solidarity. Yet, so many
of you do it with PRIDE. You do it with smiles and often, you do it with tears.
Tears of frustration—“Please stop saying mayoral academies don’t accept
students with special needs!” Tears of gratitude—“My daughter loves school now.
She doesn’t want the summer to come!” Tears of joy—“ I believe in the mayoral
academies with everything I have inside me. I have seen what it has done for my
children and the four communities that we pull from.”

I have come to know you—some of you very well. I have come
to know your stories, your hardships and your hopes. I relish in your
children’s accomplishments as if they were my own daughter’s. We’re a
community—a family and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

This year has taught me, more than ever, that anything worth
having is worth fighting for.  It has
also reaffirmed that a worthwhile belief will cause you anxiety and struggle. And
it should—or it’s too flimsy to believe in at all.  School choice matters. I believe it.  I’m willing to fight for it—though I hope we
won’t have to fight forever.

My sincerest hope is that my BVP Musings next year will be
filled with stories of more collaboration like the Central Falls
District-Charter Compact; less “us versus them” and more  “all of us;” less battling and more
celebrating; and a mutual understanding that each and every one of us
ultimately wants what’s best for kids.  Until then, I wish you a restful summer (with
lots of summer reading and a homework packet) and a 2014-15 school year with just enough anxiety to grow, and little
enough to soak up the joy.