Uptown Public School Series: Excellence, Rigor, and Diversity of Options

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“The Teachers Are My Favorite Part”: Why Our Family Loves Samuel J. Green Charter School

By Antonio and Revonda Darensbourg

In the fourth of our ten-essay series by parents of students at public schools Uptown, Antonio and Revonda Darensbourg write about their children’s experience at Samuel J. Green Charter School. Uptown, like New Orleans as a whole, has many public school options for families—from college preparatory schools, to three different language immersion programs, to a Montessori program, to a technology career pathway school. In this series, we hear from parents themselves on why their child’s school is right for them.

In 2012, we sent our first child, Antonio, to school at Samuel J. Green Charter School. The first day naturally brought tears, both from him and from us, as we parted ways for the day. But when he came home that afternoon, Antonio was excited and happy. The next day, he was looking forward to going back. We said to each other, “Okay, we’re going to keep him here as long as we can.”

A few years later, we were happy to send our second child, Reya, to Green as well. She has loved it, just like Antonio. When we asked Reya what she liked most about Green, she said, “The teachers are my favorite part. And my friends—especially the friends that I love so much, I cried when I saw them on the first day of school.”

That’s how we want our children to feel about their school. We feel so grateful for Green and the environment it provides for our daughter and son.

Reya and Antonio

Growing up, Antonio (Senior) lived in New Orleans. He went to Corpus Christi Elementary School and Saint Augustine High School. Many families he knew felt that private schools were the only good option in our city. But he feels that public schools in our city have changed in a positive way since he was a child. They’ve improved and become great choices for families.

One way that Antonio hoped schools had stayed the same, however, was around the consistency of teachers. He valued that when he was growing up, the same teachers would know an entire family — they would teach years and years of siblings, cousins, and even children of former students. We were concerned that the changes in New Orleans public schools meant our children would have many new teachers each year. At Green, that has not been the case at all. Our children have the same teachers year after year, and we have loved them.

We have gotten to know these teachers, as well as Green’s principal, Ms. Lee, very well. We feel close to them, and we know we can call them if we have any questions or concerns. We are all a team, supporting Antonio and Reya as they grow.

Antonio and Reya in the school garden

We know the academics are strong at Green, and we like how they weave learning into so many aspects of the school day. Last week, for instance, Reya learned about fractions in the school’s garden, called the Edible Schoolyard New Orleans.

They also have great extracurriculars like track and field, flag football, basketball, band, and dance. Antonio’s basketball coach, Coach Jahmal, is particularly important to him. Jahmal really cares about coaching and builds a relationship with every boy on the team. He is a great example for the boys of a man who they can turn to and who they respect as a leader.

Art by Reya

When we talk to other parents about Green, we tell them to learn about the school in person. They shouldn’t just walk past the school or read about it. They shouldn’t even simply trust a friend’s advice. They should ask to go inside. They should see what the culture is, learn about their curriculum, meet some educators, and make your decision based on that. We have no doubt they will like what they see.

Samuel J. Green Charter School, part of the FirstLine Schools network, educates students preK-8 at 2319 Valence Street. Enrollment for the 2020-2021 school year for Green and nearly all New Orleans public schools opens this fall through EnrollNOLA. You can find out more information at enrollnola.org or call or visit a Family Resource Center.

The New Orleans Uptown Public School Series is brought to you by New Schools for New Orleans in partnership with NOLA Messenger.

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