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From Private School to Public, a Family Leaps

The Thomas family.

All but a handful of East Baton Rouge Parish public schools are labeled as poor performers by the state. That’s prompted exodus—individual students leaving the district through the private school voucher program; and a group in southeast Baton Rouge is trying to form a new breakaway district, taking with it some of the newer school buildings and a big chunk of the tax base.

But Commentator Carlos Thomas and his family are putting their faith in the parish school system.

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Five years ago, my wife and I enrolled our then 18-month-old son in a private language immersion school in Baton Rouge. When our daughter was born two years later, we enrolled her in the same program.

It's been a great learning environment for our kids. And it's been a great place for my wife and myself to make friends with other progressive-minded families.

The school gave us a reason to stay in Baton Rouge after my wife and I completed the graduate work that brought us here.

She and I are both products of the public school system -- in Louisiana and Tennessee respectively. So after much debate, we decided we needed to put our kids in public schools also.

Our friends at the private school abruptly informed us we were crazy to entrust our children’s academic future to the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Nevertheless, we submitted our son's application for EBR's Foreign Language Academic Immersion Program, FLAIM.

Several weeks later, the letter came back, and it wasn't good. Our son was placed in the waiting pool.

You know that old saying, "If momma ain't happy, then ain't nobody happy,"? Well, it was rough around the Thomas household for about a month.

How could he be wait-listed? Where was our son on the list? What were the EXACT criteria used to place him on the list? We just couldn't understand why the lottery process was not public and transparent.

If our son doesn't get into FLAIM, five years of language immersion is at risk. But after much consternation, we've decided that we will remain committed to the public school option and let the process work.

We’ve seen proof that high academic achievement is possible through the East Baton Rouge Parish School System. Baton Rouge High and McKinley routinely place students at top 20 colleges and universities. That’s our family’s goal and we believe we can achieve that through the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.

Commentator Carlos Thomas is an assistant professor at Southern University, husband, and father of three.

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