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Busy at work last Monday, my cell phone was on vibrate and a call was coming in and I didn’t recognize the number. When I finally had a chance to listen to the message, I was stunned. “Hi, this is so & so, from Community Magnet, we would like to offer a 4th grade spot to your daughter for the 2013-2014 school year. This is your first notice, you will get 2 more and if we don’t hear back from you by Wednesday, we will consider that a rejection and REMEMBER, if you do not accept this spot, you will LOSE ALL OF YOUR ACCUMULATED MAGNET POINTS!!!” She didn’t say it shouting, as the all-caps would imply, but she said it in such a chipper pleasant way that the content of what she she was saying, about losing all of our accumulated points, contrasted with the perkiness and came off sounding sarcastic and taunting. I assume the speaker did not intend to tease or taunt, but only was enjoying her job, thinking she was spreading good cheer with such good news- your child won the lottery and finally gets to come to our wonderful, very coveted school for 4th and 5th grade! But all I could think of was, there is no way our kid is going to agree to leave her school and there is no way this works with our life. Not only because of how dedicated I am to sending our kids to our local school, but our daughter is clearly enthusiastic herself about her school and has continued to grow into a very confident, thriving third grader. So, I already knew the answer before I discussed it with my husband and child, but it didn’t stop the frustration and angst bubbling up inside of me. We had won the magnet lottery and lost the magnet war of the crazy absurd LAUSD magnet point game, just as I had dreaded and discussed in a previous post.

The decision to turn down the spot and lose the accumulated magnet points didn’t phase my husband very much, while I, on the other hand, wanted to drag out the decision making process a little longer. I wanted to stew in the confusion. I really didn’t want to send her to this school, no matter how wonderful it was, so perhaps it came down to that I just didn’t want to let go of those dang magnet points!!! I wanted to store them up, hoard them really, to try to get her into LACES, the highly regarded middle school and high school right here in our neighborhood. If we sent her to Community Magnet, we just might get in – although several friends have attempted, while their child was graduating from Community, and they still didn’t get in – that’s how competitive it is to snag a spot there. As they assured me, if the only reason to change schools now was to attempt getting into the middle school of our choice, it probably wasn’t worth it, because it was still going to be a long shot.

So, I thought I would run it by my child to get her input. Maybe she was secretly bored at school, all of a sudden felt she had outgrown it, or wanted to try something new and explore her adventurist spirit that I know she has in her somewhere, and might really be ready for a change. She was curious when I told her that I had something important to talk to her about. “You got into another school for 4th grade,” I finally told her. “I did? You mean I am not going to Carthay next year?” Some parents would have said, “That’s right! You are going to a new school that you are going to LOVE,” and not asked for any input from their child, because as parents, we should know what our child needs, right?  In fact, I am pretty sure she would do fine at that school if we sent her, even if in 4th grade. Being so social, she would have made new friends quickly and enjoyed all of the extra extracurriculars that that uber bunch of parents help pay for, that I read about on greatschools.org and the school’s website. She might have been more academically challenged by being surrounded by so many kids that ace the standardized tests and enjoyed teachers who are fortunate to have classrooms full of kids like that.

But, rewind, we didn’t tell her that she had to go – we asked her what she thought about the idea. Would she want to go see the school? She was curious to see it, but really only if we were going to make her go. Otherwise, she didn’t think it was necessary. I told her that there might be more music, more art, more challenging academics, more everything, really, and she didn’t seem that impressed. So, I told her I wanted to hear why she wanted to stay at her school. She wrote me this list:

Reasons to Stay at Carthay

  • Carthay has a garden
  • My friends go to Carthay.
  • My sister goes to Carthay.
  • My dad is a PTA board member.
  • I know all of the teachers and I like the staff.
  • I live close to Carthay
  • I helped design the new play structure. *
  • I am in the student Council.
  • I like the after school progam and the STAR director.
  • I know at least one kid from each grade.
  • I feel comfortable at this school.
  • I am challenged enough.

(* really I think she just helped pick the colors, but clearly she feels she was part of the process)

I read the list over a couple of times and sighed a big sigh of relief.  The next morning, I replied to the follow up email, our  second notice/warning from that enthusiastic magnet coordinator, and graciously declined their kind offer.  Poof went our magnet points into the thin air.  Instead of feeling the pain of the loss of all those valuable points, I felt light and free.  I knew we had made the right decision.  And I am sure we made some other family further down on the list very, very happy.

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