Meet Candace Moore—TNCS’s New Summer Camp Director!

For summer 2019, The New Century School has brought Candace Moore on board just as the second half of the school year started.

Background and Experience

candace-moore-joins-tncs-summer-directorBefore coming to TNCS, Ms. Moore had been a short-term associate kindergarten teacher at McDonogh School, where she was standing in for a teacher on maternity leave, as well as teaching 2- and 3-year-olds at the Goddard School. Prior to that she taught reading literacy and art and did some mentoring at Lindhurst and Cherry Hill Elementary schools. She has taught students from age 2 through 8th grade.

From the breadth of her experience, you might think Ms. Moore has been teaching for years, but, in fact, she’s a recent graduate of the the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, PA. She is from Baltimore, born and raised, and attended the Baltimore School for the Arts (BSA), graduating in 2012. If you are starting to sense a theme, you would not be off base—the arts are extremely important to Ms. Moore. “I’m an artist first,” she says, “so I always put that out there.”

As for what my medium is, that’s kind of hard to put into one thing. I’ve been dancing since I was 3. So, I am a dancer and I’ve studied dance, but my major in both high school and in college was theatre. BSA’s curriculum was very strict so it was just theatre focused, but my college is a Liberal Arts institution, so I was able to take classes in child psychology, brand and behavior, and cultural dance—Spanish and African—as well. Overall my art expertise is dance, theatre, and painting and other visual arts.

Is there anything this superwoman doesn’t do?! Yes—she confesses to not being a sports person. Despite her technical training in modern and contemporary ballet, she says she does not have the coordination that sports require. (We can overlook this tiny evidence of her humanness.)

But don’t get too comfortable—there’s more. As to how she got involved in education, she says that career focus is a recent shift: :In my senior year of college, I didn’t really know exactly what I wanted to do, because I do have experience with a lot of different things. From one perspective, it can seem like, ‘oh, wow, that’s great,’ but then from another perspective, it’s like, ‘okay, what do you do with what you know?’ So you have to put it somewhere.”

Art and Education: Tying It All Together

She began reflecting on education. Her first job was camp counselor at McDonogh, and her mother has been an educator for decades.

So I literally have always been around it, and I’ve seen the impact she’s had on people, specifically with special education and just really being a great teacher. She also taught me everything I know. So, my focus changed, and I realized that I wanted to teach the importance of emotional and social well-being through art. That’s kind of where I am now—developing relationships and fundamentals so I can move into incorporating that into a program of my own. That is one of my goals that I’ve set for myself. I don’t know specifically what it will be or what it will be called, but what I have in mind would use art as the resource to build social connections with teachers, students, and parents and would emphasize the need to express through art as a way to learn more about yourself and how to communicate better with others.

Using art in this way, to communicate, to tell a story, is something she personally has always done.

Art came into my life really when I needed an outlet to express. I’ve been doing it my entire life, but I started acting when I was 11, and a lot of people around that age are going through a lot. You don’t really know how to talk about your feelings to your parents or even your friends. All of these changes are happening and you’re growing up. Even now I recognize that it’s starting at an earlier age for middle schoolers and not really knowing how to release what it is that they are feeling. I learned through creating stories, my own stories, and creating characters as a veil to show and express what it is that I’m feeling but not really having to do it as me. Being able to use a character to say how I feel really helped me to see that I’m releasing it, I’m letting it go, and then I’m able to understand a little bit more about how I feel. Even through dance, the physical connects to the mental. A lot of the movement that I’ve learned is about connecting how you feel and releasing that through movement.

Candace Moore at TNCS

Directing summer camp at TNCS will be ideal practice for Ms. Moore’s intriguing approach to art and education. She has already been giving a lot of thought to how she will bring her ideas to bear in summer camp as well. She hopes to build a diverse community of educators who each have different ideas and perspectives that, taken together, will provide something beneficial to every student. Her primary focus right now, though, is learning the administrative ropes and developing best practice standards.

Overall I want the community to know that I’m here to support them, not just the students, but the families in every way possible as well. I want families to be just as comfortable about approaching any issues or changes in their lives or situations for the summer just as much as during the school year. I really want to reinforce the need for communication with everyone within the school as well. I plan to have a few meetings before the summer starts so all of the teachers know the expectations and everyone is on the same page and making sure all of the parents have all of their information as well.

Other Responsibilities

Because she is already employed full time, Ms. Moore has taken on additional roles within the school while she readies for summer. While Monica Li is temporarily back in China, Ms. Moore is assuming some of her billing and office tasks. Another big part of her job currently is being the point person for Chinese exchange students, interns, and families. She is also teaching the students English As a Second Language (ESL).

Although I haven’t worked directly teaching ESL, I know that the purpose of the class is to get students to communicate, and much of theatre is about communication. A lot of the warm-ups and other activities are about group effort—working together and communicating, not just with your voice but with your body as well. Both verbal and physical communication are really important. It’s also really important to understand how to communicate physically because cultures do that differently. So, I think bringing that to them will be beneficial and help them feel more comfortable in the short amount of time that they’re here, especially for their ages. The oldest is 10 and the youngest is 7, and they will probably be a little shy. Let’s make it fun.

Let’s make learning fun. What a great note to end on! And welcome to the TNCS community, Ms. Moore.

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TNCS Welcomes DBFA and the “Big Kids”!

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For the second year in a row, TNCS hosted this DBFA event, providing plenty of space in the gymnasium.

On Wednesday, January 28th, The New Century School once again had the pleasure of hosting the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance‘s annual signature event, “Meet the Big Kids (and Their Parents).” This event featured participants from neighborhoods all over the city (e.g., Fell’s Point, Butcher’s Hill, Otterbein, Roland Park, Federal Hill, etc.) to provide the inside scoop on the challenges and benefits of growing up and going to school in our urban environment. TNCS was perfectly situated to host again, with plans to open its very own middle school in the fall of 2016 and welcome some big kids of its own!

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Hors d’oeuvres from Lebanese Taverna gave attendees time to arrive at a leisurely pace, mingle, and recharge before getting down to business.

The event, designed to accommodate working parents, commenced with a happy hour with hors d’oeuvres from Harbor East’s Lebanese Taverna, while children were given pizza and snacks in an adjoining classroom with childcare by Wondersitters. The audience turnout was high—how to raise healthy, happy older children in downtown Baltimore is a popular topic! DBFA solicited questions for the panel in advance to make sure everyone’s concerns were addressed in a timely fashion. Said mediator Beth Laverick, “[This event] is 150% worth your time, and you will walk away with more information than you thought possible.”

This year, the event took a slightly different tack, focusing more on the kids themselves and letting them express their opinions in their own voices. One especially nice touch was in the variety of perspectives that the panel shared. In addition to middle school–age and high school–age kids, parents were also on hand to provide their viewpoints. Thirdly, the panel included two young working professionals who had grown up in Baltimore, gone to college, launched successful careers, and returned to Baltimore to live and work. The resounding message was that staying in Baltimore to raise a family is not only fine, but it has many advantages—big advantages—that the panel was happy to enumerate.

So how do they do it? How do downtown families manage “without yards, two-car garages, and shopping malls”?

DBFA Executive Director John Bullock introduced the event by explaining DBFA’s mission to keep Baltimore families connected and to provide the resources they need to enhance family life in Charm City. Mediator Mrs. Laverick then took over to introduce the panelists. Each was asked to describe where he or she lives and what it is about Baltimore that has him or her committed to city living. Walkability was a key theme as was the sense of community pervading the neighborhoods. Many consider Baltimore a “small, close-knit community within a big city.” In other words, you get the best of both worlds here. All of your neighbors know you and keep an eye out for your family as in a small town, while first-rate theatre, dining, farmers’ markets, and shopping are abundantly available—big-city perks. “There’s never a dull moment,” said Big Kid Sebastian Towles, which got a laugh from the audience. We could all agree with that statement!

Discussion Topics

Not surprisingly, schools were the biggest issue, just as they were last year. In some ways, this issue is fast becoming a non-issue. Almost soon as the Big Kids opened their mouths, audience members’ concerns about Baltimore City high schools were quelled. The panelists were smart, witty, eloquent, and extremely self-possessed. They were perfectly at ease speaking from the stage to a large audience, all of which says a lot about the education (a mix of public and private schools) they are receiving. “Do you have concerns that the education your child is getting is not on a par with national standards? parents were asked. “Not even a little bit,” said one, which was echoed unanimously. If anything, it’s the opposite. Fun fact: students graduating from Baltimore City public high schools get free tuition to Johns Hopkins University upon acceptance! (See below for a list of the top-performing Baltimore City high schools. Also note that Baltimore is nationally renowned for its private high schools (e.g., Gilman, Calvert Hall). “Where did you go to school?” when asked of a Baltimore native, does not refer to college, but to high school.

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This year’s panel included the kids, their parents, and a couple of “former kids”!

What about school safety? What about transportation to school? In Baltimore City, no high schools are zoned, so all are by choice. Prospective enrollees apply to their top picks and make the decision based on where they are accepted. This system is really wonderful for matching a Big Kid to the right learning environment (some schools focus on The Arts, others on STEM, for example). It also presents a couple of challenges, such as getting to a school that isn’t located in the immediate vicinity. Are parents forced to spend hours each morning chauffering their kids to school and making all manner of sacrifices for this inconvenience? Panelists laughed off the very idea. Part of urban living is developing the competence and independence to navigate the city. Most of the school-aged panelists take the MTA busses and are happy to do so. Carpools can also be arranged in certain instances, but to hear the kids themselves, availing themselves of the public transportation at hand clearly makes the most sense. Busses on the school routes are full of students, and it’s easy to develop “bus buddies” should a helping hand or just some companionship ever be needed.

As for safety in the school, this was again a moment during which the panelists impressed the audience. It’s true that cell phones and valuable items get stolen in Baltimore (as anywhere, city or no). These kids seemed almost puzzled by the idea that they wouldn’t use common sense en route to school or anywhere else. Don’t display valuable items; travel in groups. Duh ;)! As for larger safety issues such as bodily harm or worse, look at the statistics, said one of the grown-up “kids.” Violence in schools not only happens everywhere, but actually seems to be more prevalent in non-urban areas. This fact seems difficult to fathom until you consider that with a greater population density comes correspondingly more infrastructure to maintain order, such as police presence (and number of streetlights, pointed out Amuse Toys owner Claudia Towles, winning another audience laugh). The grown-up kids were quick to point out the harrowing experiences they met with after leaving Baltimore for college in small towns. The kids are right: It’s all down to using common sense, and urban parents might be more likely to begin instilling these lessons early, resulting in some pretty savvy young urban dwellers.

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More than 40 parents turned out to Meet the Big Kids (and Their Parents) to learn about the next phase of parenting and schooling in Baltimore.

From this point, a unifying motif emerged during all topics. City kids are resourceful. They are creative, innovative, and welcoming of a challenge. No yard to play outside in? Text your buddies to meet up at the neighborhood park or initiate a ball game in a very-low-trafficked alley. “Learn your community like the back of your hand,” they advised. Walk around; get to know the city. Parents agreed. Grant independence in increments, said Fell’s Point mom Melanie Hood Wilson. Teach them their boundaries and to be mindful of their surroundings.

As happened throughout the night, what was presented in question form as something to be overcome turned out to be a clear advantage in panelist answers. For example, no backyard (or one made of bricks—another laugh) opens up the city as a playground with a wealth to do and explore. Mrs. Wilson shared an anecdote that when her teenage daughter had just finished a grueling morning of exams and had an afternoon available to do with whatever she chose, she and her friends opted for a visit to the art museum. And, Baltimore’s walkability and abundant public transportation means that our teenagers aren’t driving as much, which parents and grown-up kids say translate into fewer accidents and fewer DUIs compared to teens in the suburbs who tend to have to drive almost everywhere.

Although the view was overall pretty rosy, it isn’t perfect. But Baltimore families and stakeholders are working on establishing more high schools, especially charter schools, to increase the number of excellent options. The DaVinci Academy for the Arts and Sciences (working name) is in development in Southeast Baltimore, for example, with hopes to open in fall 2017. “Baltimore has a way to go,” said Mrs. Wilson, “to develop the same diversity of options for high school that we have for elementary. And that’s only going to happen if families stay in the city and demand it.” Another way you can make your voice heard on the topic of schools in Baltimore is by visiting the Baltimore City Public Schools website, which actively solicits feedback. This organization also conducts annual School Effectiveness Reviews (SERs) that are published on the site for your perusal.

Finally, if you would like a deeper dive into the most frequently asked questions and their answers, please see Immersed‘s write-up of 2014’s event, which dealt with many of the same topics: Meet The Big Kids.

Meet the Big Kids with TNCS!

On Wednesday, April 9th, The New Century School had the honor of hosting the Downtown Baltimore Family Alliance‘s annual event, “Meet the Big Kids’ Parents.” This event featured “local parents from neighborhoods all over the city, each with at least one child older than age 8 years, [to provide] the inside scoop on the challenges and benefits of parenting the school-aged child in our urban environment.” TNCS was perfectly situated to host this one, with plans to open its very own middle school in the Fall of 2016.

A synopsis is provided here if you missed the event or just want to revisit some of these important themes.

More than 40 parents turned out to Meet the Big Kids' Parents (and the kids) to learn about the next phase of parenting and schooling in Baltimore.

More than 40 parents turned out to Meet the Big Kids’ Parents (and the kids) to learn about the next phase of parenting and schooling in Baltimore.

The event was very well organized and designed to accommodate working parents. A happy hour with complimentary light fare and wine gave attendees time to arrive at a leisurely pace, mingle, and recharge before getting down to business. The turnout was high—how to raise healthy, happy older children in downtown Baltimore is evidently foremost on the minds of city parents! DBFA solicited questions for the panel in advance to make sure everyone’s concerns were addressed in a timely fashion. So how do they do it? How do downtown parents manage “without yards, two-car garages, and shopping malls”?

To get things started, panelists explained what it is about Baltimore that has them committed to city living. “Has to be the diversity,” said a Federal Hill dad who grew up in a small New England town. The wealth of resources, such as easy-to-access harp lessons, was another advantage he cited. One mother expressed her love of the walkability of her Fell’s Point neighborhood and joked that it’s also the perfect excuse to prolong the process of getting her son a driver’s license. She also appreciates the sense of community pervading her neighborhood. Another Fell’s Point mom echoed loving walkability and that her pre-teen and teenage daughters can travel about independently to pick up groceries and snacks or go browse the local comics shop. She also appreciates the breadth of school choice available in Baltimore that allowed her to pick just the right schools to amplify and enhance her daughters’ particular strengths. A Canton mom expressed that her and her husband always assumed they’d move out of the city once children arrived, but found they preferred to stay and have been thrilled with their decision because of good schooling and the confidence and empowerment that city life has given their sons. A Federal Hill mom likes the small-town-in-a-city feel that is uniquely Baltimore. Neighbors look out for neighbors, and everyone knows each other, which creates a closely knit community as well as a sort of safety net. Another Federal Hill mom also appreciates the familiarity of her neighborhood and its strong sense of community. She knows “the shopkeepers, the restaurant owners, the teachers,” she said and considers giving that up to live elsewhere not worth the price.

Meet the Big Kids’ Parents: Questions for the Panel

Questions were sorted by topic, and each panel member was invited to provide his or her own take on the issue. The panel comprised both parents and their kids, who ranged in age from 10 to 15 years. Their responses have been edited and condensed for (relative) brevity.

Friends

Where do your kids friends live? In your neighborhood or do you have to drive them around town for play dates? 

Friends tend to be within walking distance, fortunately. Although Baltimore middle and high schools do not follow neighborhood zoning, meaning that students at a given school have come from all over the city, neighborhood kids have grown up together and just naturally gravitate to each other. That, and moms say they made “blood pacts” (which drew a lot of laughter and sympathetic head nodding) to make city living work and have stuck together from infant play groups right up through middle school and beyond.

One of the best things about Baltimore is the diversity. That being said, our child has started to ask for play dates with children who come from a much different background and we are not sure if we feel comfortable allowing our child to go to someone’s house that may not have some of the same rules, level of parental supervision, etc. How did you handle this?

This question really isn’t unique to Baltimore or even to cities, for that matter. Parents are going to vet the households of their kids’ potential playmates before sending them over. “Know the parents; know the kids,” said a Fell’s Point mom. It’s that simple. And, if you can’t always achieve a level of familiarity you’re comfortable with, meet for playdates on neutral ground, such as at the park. Backgrounds might be vastly different, but diligent parents aren’t unique to one type of family or another, said another mom. You can kind of sense it. The resident dad said the distrust is mutual. Crossing boundaries is hard, he said, but Baltimore and the country at large can’t make social progress until we learn how to explore the other side.

Urban Challenges

We moved across the city to a larger row house for more space. So space is not an issue, however, there are times we do wish we had a garage and yard. How do your kids feel about not having a yard? Where do they play? At your local park or front/back yard if you have one?

Green spaces abound in Baltimore, as the panelists enthusiastically attested. Baltimore parks are basically like expanded back yards, according to the kids, where everyone meets up and plays and hangs out. Then again, this is a city, and some kids choose the more urban atmosphere of the alley, where they can play soccer and lacrosse, for example. These cosmopolitan kids know how to warn of approaching cars and to stay safe. Many of these kids have never known a different environment and don’t experience the lack of a back yard as any kind of disadvantage in the first place. “Kids know what they know,” in the words of one mom. Sidewalks are fun places to play, too! And, as she put it, “Yeah, [so and so] might have a great backyard, but does he have a water taxi?” Great point!

Our children love all of the fun attractions and events that take place in the city and are truly happy. As they get older, do you feel like your children were happy with their urban lifestyle?

The kids fielded this one, exclusively, and very enthusiastically. Simply put, they love living in the city! Far from outgrowing what the city has to offer, they mentioned the wealth of fun, stimulating things there are to do at any and all ages. They also enjoy feeling sorta special à la “That Girl”! They’re urbane, shopping and going out to eat along the harbor in gaggles and thoroughly enjoying it. “Where else can you do that?” asked one girl rhetorically. They know how to get around with public transportation to school or activities. They’re savvy and independent, and these qualities will serve them well through adolescence into adulthood.

Have you had problems with crime in school?

In fact, big school-related violent crimes seem to happen outside the city. Petty crimes such as having a cell phone stolen at a bus stop are easily avoided, said the parents. Teach your kids a few common sense practices, like don’t walk around the city with your valuables on display, they said. The kids spoke up to say they feel safe, despite not always going to school in “the best neighborhoods.” As must be the case in any U.S. school these days, they are coached on what to do in a variety of adverse circumstances.

Freedom

How do you deal with freedom/extending the “leash”? I feel like if we were living in the suburbs I’d be able to say to my oldest go out and play . . . but in the city you can’t really do that. Any suggestions for letting him feel like I’m trusting him to do more but still being safe?

A Fell’s Point mom turned this question on its head and made a really great point in so doing. “I feel like we can extend the leash more because we live in the city,” she said. The assumption tends to be that cities are dangerous and suburbs are safe, but relevant data hardly bears that out. City neighbors are closer in proximity and more likely to be looking out for each other, for example. Another great point she made is that with so much to do in the city, kids are less likely to go looking for trouble. Another parent pointed out that this generation of parents is much more cautious to begin with; it’s not that the city is inherently more dangerous for kids. Finally, one mom shared her strategies for reeling out freedom gradually. As your child successfully handles each milestone, he or she is granted a little more at a time, such as 15 minutes of independent exploration at the aquarium and then meeting back up/checking in at the cafeteria. “It’s really just another version,” she said, of the same kind of freedom suburban parents give. Kids can go three or four houses away to play but probably aren’t going all the way across town by themselves.

Afterschool Activities

Where do your afterschool/weekend activities take place? Suburbs? In the city/close by? 

This is one area where Baltimore has the hands down advantage. The variety and quality of available extracurricular activities is staggering. Whether your kids are into art, music, drama—whatever—there’s plenty to do! And much of it is even free. With sports, the answer is a little different, according to these parents, but that’s just the way it is no matter where you live. With competitive sports, you’re almost certainly going to have do some driving because the teams travel to compete, which requires both a commitment and a bit of a lifestyle change to keep up with weekday practices and games on weekends. It’s a decision your family and your kids will probably have to make. “Don’t get into ice hockey!” warned one mom, who finds herself driving regularly up and down the east coast, though it started as “Hockey in the Hood” (more laughter). This situation is not unique to the city, each parent was quick to remind the audience, but is the state of travel leagues in the suburbs also.

Where we grew up in the suburbs, we had great sports programs. Are there many options in the city?

Without the travel league aspect, there are plenty of kids’ sports facilities in the city, probably more than one in your neighborhood alone! Coppermine and DuBurns came up repeatedly. The Lingo Leap (where we were all sitting, coincidentally) also offers plenty of fun, unique ways to engage in physical activity!

Our child does Fitness Fun and Games after school. Are there any options for older children?

This, again, is far from a troublesome issue. One working mom explained that her daughters like to hang out at the library after school with their friends. They get their homework done there as a bonus! Each school also usually offers really terrific afterschool options, which vary from tennis to volleyball to the Audubon Society to mandolin lessons. This, said one mom, is quite different from county schools who don’t offer such school-based afterschool clubs. Another parent suggested making the afterschool offerings a criterion for choosing the middle school and high school that’ll best suit your child.

Schools (the Biggie!)

We were lucky enough to get into a great public charter school. It runs from preschool to 8th grade. But now I’m already starting to worry about high school. (My oldest is ONLY in 1st grade but I’m a planner!) Have you been through the high school process? What are your thoughts? I think that is weighing heavily on my mind as we start thinking about our next (forever) home.

The high school process is not easy, said parents and kids alike, but it’s well worth it—moreover you’re amply prepared for it in middle school. Baltimore is unique in “matching” students to schools much like is done for medical students looking for a residency hospital. There are no neighborhood-zoned schools any longer. Each child picks five schools and ranks them according to preference, then makes his or choice among those that awarded acceptance. It’s a bit complicated, but it means that your child goes to school where he or she wants to, which must make a dramatic difference in the overall high school experience.

Unfortunately, there really aren’t that many great ones to choose from, currently. Of course we have great private schools, but public options really narrow in the high school realm. The kids, however, explained “shadowing” at various highs schools and that, instead of being disappointed by their lack of choice, were almost equally enamored of each school they toured. Their excitement for high school was palpable.

As if reading the collective audience mind, the Federal Hill dad spoke next and “threw some numbers” on the problem, because many of us were probably wondering if our kids would be facing the same glorious choices that the panel kids described, or would ours not fare so well? The available spots in Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, Baltimore City College, Baltimore School for the Arts, and Western High School, for example, which are Blue Ribbon schools universally considered outstanding, are enough to ensure that kids in the upper quartiles of eligibility will land one. “The fact that you’re here, concerned about your child’s education,” he continued, “says your child stands a pretty good chance.” Eligibility (except in School for the Arts, which is exclusively audition based) is based on a composite score from tests and grades in middle school, and each school weights aspects of the score differently, depending on the thrust of the school (i.e., science or art driven). Choosing a school, moreover, is based on many nonacademic aspects, and you and your child will make the choice based on what’s right for you and your circumstances.

Also, Baltimore has a way to go, said one mom, to develop the same diversity of options for high school that we have for elementary. And that’s only going to happen, she said, if families stay in the city and demand it.

Our son was lucky enough to get into a great public school that goes through 8th grade. Unfortunately, it is across the city and can be a nightmare cutting across the city. We realize that there are others who travel much farther for school. As they get older, are there transportation options?

Carpooling is a popular way to address this very real issue, so that each family is only having to drive a couple times per week. Traffic snarls, I83—driving any distance within the city can be a huge hassle. Or, not so much, said one mom. She embraces this opportunity to chat with her 15-year-old daughter who is not very forthcoming about what’s going on in her life under less “captive” circumstances.

For the parents who are sending their children to a Baltimore City Public school—do you have any safety concerns? Do you feel like they are getting a quality education and on par with other children their age?

This was another one that parents downright rejected. One mom pointed out that there’s really nothing to the stereotype that suburban schools are good and city schools are bad. Another mom cited hard data, and, if anything, her daughter’s school outperforms those in the county. Why? One mom says it’s because city schools, frankly, have to try harder. The resident dad likewise picked apart the assumption that private is better than public. There followed several personal anecdotes about school experience, with the upshot that everyone is doing just fine. A mom then spoke up with some great advise to visit the school under consideration during a typical day to see what going there is really like. Do you like what’s happening there? Is it a good fit for your child? She finished with, “You know your kid better than anybody else. You’re the expert on your child. Some kids need more structure; some are really going to do better in an environment where they can explore. You know your kid.” Another mom chimed in to say make note of what you don’t like also, because no school is going to be perfect. Which imperfections can you live with?

The bottom line is, not an audience member could have walked away without being utterly reassured that raising a family in downtown Baltimore is not only fine, but that it confers lots of advantages over suburban life. The kids on the panel were bright, articulate, self-confident, and clearly happy. They spoke for themselves in more ways than one!