I loved being a full-time mom. I believe it was those fulfilling years of intense parenting that made me ready to kiss my youngest good-bye at the bus stop without a hint of nostalgia as he entered full-day kindergarten this fall. The job of Ossining Village Trustee is not intended to be full-time. But there is so much to do, and I love it, so it takes as much of my life as I allow. (A tricky balance.) My least flexible commitments are in the evenings. I attempt to be home at least two nights during the week, but that’s often not possible. My husband’s job is prone to running late, so my kids are frequently tucked into bed by one of the many OHS students that comprise my ever-growing list of sitters.
Still, the boys say they like that I’m a village trustee. They get to attend tons of exciting events in our community. Their biggest complaint is that mama talks to grown-ups everywhere we go in Ossining. I’m not the first mother of young children to serve as village trustee, but I am the only woman on the board currently. When I have meetings and the boys aren’t in school, I often tuck them away under a conference table with a portable DVD player, headphones and snacks.
My sons are ages 5 and 6 now. I wonder if they’ll still like that I’m a trustee once they are able to read Facebook posts and become aware of the sometimes harsh critiques I get from community members. We’ll see. In our home we never shy away from frank and challenging discussions. We talk a lot about striving to live our values. The biggest lesson I hope they gain from observing me in local elected office is that we all have a role to play in making our community better.
I am not writer, English was my worst subject at school. I do like reading, books, blogs that I find interesting, and historical things. So when asked if I would write on being an activist mom, I said yes right away because it gave me a reason to sit down and challenge myself to do something that I was never really good at.
When it was time to register our son for kindergarten, I realized that my house is zoned for a school that is not really that great. Growing up in the neighborhood, I never heard good things about this school. The zone line was right in front of our house so if I lived across the street, I would’ve been zoned for a better school. This for me was a problem. When discussing the issue with a good friend of mine who is a Vice Principal in a great school he said he would put his kids in private school because he was done dealing with the DOE (Department of Education), I didn’t understand what he meant at that time and he didn’t really go into it so I left it at that. It wasn’t until my son was registered in the system with a DOE number that I finally understood what he meant.
I consider myself a person who fights for what I believe in and for what is fair. I don’t fight just to fight. I don’t think that I would call myself an activist but when I realized that the Department of Education will change anything that they have in writing and anything that they have told you, at the drop of a hat, well that is when I get involved and I don’t stop until what I think is wrong is righted.
As a working mom, it is really hard for me to do anything aside from going to work, taking my son to his activities, play dates, birthday parties and housework. I don’t have parents or any support system really to help me out. So anything that goes beyond my weekly routine is so much more than what I could handle. I realized however, that when it comes to promises made to me about my son’s future, I have the time, the energy and whatever else it takes to make sure that those promises are kept. I am not going to go into details about what those promises were, however, I can tell you that for about eight months the parents at District 30 where signing petitions, rallying, and sending written letters to the mayor, the commissioner of education and any other political figure that we could get our hands on to make sure that our children’s future was the future that we were promised in writing by the Department of Education. Every time we thought that we had won a battle, the Department of Education would throw us a curveball and we would have to start the fight all over again.
I was exhausted. I felt guilty for the so many evenings that I was out at CEC (Community Education Council) meetings, Town Hall meetings, PEP (Panel for Education Policy) meetings, and rallies for our cause. It had become at least one meeting a week. Then there were the school meetings in the morning (so I was always late for work) and the meetings after school. That’s not to mention the events that I missed, like Chinese New Year Lunch at 1pm at the school or the school trips, where I would get a call from another mom in my son’s class telling me that my son was crying because I was not there. All this and I am not even part of the PTA. It all became emotionally and physically draining but if I wasn’t going to fight for my son’s promised future, I realized that our elected officials were not going to do it and they had a financial gain (Bloomberg investing in Charter Schools) not to keep their promises. In the end, the parents were able to have the Department of Education keep their PUBLISHED promises to the students that were already in the school system but they changed policies for new incoming students. I am hoping that these policies will remain in place until my son gets to high school as promised.
I am glad that I only have one child and I don’t have to worry about what new policies the Department of Education will put in place for future students, but if promises are not kept in the coming years for my son, you can bet that I will be out there again standing up for the future of my child as promised.