As deadlines approach for DC’s School lottery, many Southwest families are considering whether to send their child to Amidon-Bowen Elementary School (ABES), or elsewhere. Any families considering ABES or other DC public or charter schools must enroll in the lottery by March 1 through www.myschooldc.org.

“The Southwester” interviewed the Co-Presidents of the PTA at ABES, Allison Harvey and Rose Shelton, to find out why they have chosen to send their children to the school, and to give their thoughts on Southwest’s only public elementary school.

How long have your children attended Amidon-Bowen Elementary School?

Allison: My daughter, Ella, has been at Amidon-Bowen for two years. She is already excitedly talking about how she’ll be in Kindergarten next year with the “big kids.”

Rose: My daughters Zoe and Simone have attended Amidon-Bowen for two years as well. I moved my children from charter to ABES. I was looking for a change.

How did you learn about Amidon-Bowen? Did you do any research before choosing Amidon-Bowen?

Rose: I actually live in the neighborhood. ABES is my neighborhood school. My neighbor’s children attended Amidon-Bowen. He tried to get me to check ABES out for years. I heard so many negative things about DCPS that I was not interested and thought maybe charter was the best. The sentiment that public schools are not a good choice for your children was expressed to me by teachers and other leaders I met in the city prior to putting my children in school when they were 3 years old. So, I initially went with a charter school outside of my community as my school choice.

After a few years of charter, despite my children doing well in charters, I did not see the benefit of sole academic driven programs. I felt like my children’s individuality was not being nurtured, but hampered. I felt like my children were becoming academic robots and not as happy as they could be. I began to feel that the value on test results was higher than the value of the individual child. I did not want that for my children.

As a parent of twin girls that are of African descent, self-identity was really big for me as well. I wanted my children to not only be able to do well in school, but to self-identify and self-actualize through diverse ways of discovery. I did not want grades and scores to be the only way they were given worth. I needed them to have solid self-esteem and awareness of their capabilities and capacity. Sports and afterschool activities where team building, self-esteem and leadership is cultivated are what I believed they needed.

While speaking with my neighbor two years ago, I confessed my concerns and he once again reiterated that ABES was the place I was looking for. He, a white Caucasian male, continued to reiterate the diversity of the school. He assured me of the nurturing of his children’s own identities in the midst of a predominantly African American community. He spoke of the community support and engagement around the school. I did more research on charters and public schools to try and find a school more in line with my desires for my children. A place with balance. I discovered that despite the negative connotation DCPS has, many DC public schools have a lot to offer. My neighbor was correct. ABES was one of the schools that offered a lot to elementary school students. I did not realize I had a gem of endless opportunity in my backyard. I was so busy driving across town for better PARCC scores and missed overall child development in my own community.

I decided I would give the school a try. I spoke with other parents, with teachers, coaches and the administration. I transferred to the school and it was one of the best decisions I made in my life. I could not be happier with the academic achievement that is still on par, the personal growth, and development that has occurred in my children. It has turned out to be everything I was looking for in a school and more. Being a part of the ABES and SW community has fostered my children’s defining of themselves and the appreciation for the diversity and uniqueness of others. Further, I did not realize how large and wonderful my community was, until my children attended school in the neighborhood and I connected with those around me.

Allison: My husband and I have lived in SW since 2011. We live just a few blocks away from the school. We first started learning more about school programs from two of our neighbors whose children attended ABES. When Ella was eligible for DC PreK, we did our research and even talked to an “education consultant.” This person actually made the recommendation to list ABES as a lower choice in the lottery, but after visiting the school, attending play dates and talking to more neighbors and parents we put Amidon-Bowen as #1. But, like Rose mentioned, there’s a perception that our neighborhood school isn’t as good when compared to charters or other public schools in the city. However, I too hope that perception will continue to change. I also agree with Rose, enrolling Ella at ABES was one of the best decisions we’ve made for our family.

What values are your children learning at ABES? Are these values that you share?

Allison: Well, this is a great question, because this really gets to the heart of why we chose Amidon-Bowen as #1, which is community. There’s a strong sense of community at ABES, and we wanted Ella to grow up feeling invested in her diverse neighborhood and community. It’s been amazing to see how Ella’s community (thereby my community) has continued to expand and grow. Now when we’re walking around the neighborhood—the library, Safeway, etc.—Ella and I are regularly interacting with community members, like seeing a friend’s older sister, running into friends and being able to give passing hugs or being able to sing-along with our very talented school choir at SW events.

Rose: I agree with Allison, my children are learning to not just live in a community, but to invest in it and the people that are a part of it. My children have learned what it means to be a community. They are learning advocacy, support and love of their community. In school you see one side of students, parents and teachers. Everyone is moving to the beat of their curriculum or schedules. However, when you attend community events and interact outside of the construct of the school you get to know a person. That personal interaction and developed relationship is then carried into the school culture and classroom.

What do you appreciate about the school?

Rose: I have found the teachers at Amidon-Bowen to be some of the best I have come in contact with. They are personable, knowledgeable and invested. Before my children attended ABES, I struggled with getting my twin girls both teachers that were personable, knowledgeable and invested in them. At ABES, the teachers understand that teachers and parents are a team working together to nurture the mind and spirit of a child. They recently had mid-year testing, and both girls have already surpassed their end-of-year goals. I am very nervous about leaving ABES for junior high next year. ABES has been a safe haven for my children and me. They set the bar high. We have had several teachers voted as the city-wide DC Teacher of the Year, including a recent recipient in 2018.

I also appreciate the aftercare. At ABES, my kids want to stay and play with their friends and be around the aftercare teachers. The aftercare teachers are amazing. The bond they create with the children is unbelievable. Aftercare further solidifies the school culture and sense of community.

We have also enjoyed all of the activities the school offers. Soccer, basketball, track, kickball, math team, spelling bee, choir, music, art, PTA and Kindred to name a few. The partnerships with the FBI, DC Scores, Edgewood Brookland, SWBID and so many other community partners are also appreciated. These programs support the school culture and provide children with many ways of self-expression.

I appreciate how the administration and staff are invested in the families at ABES. We have a diverse population. There are different needs and requirements across the board. The school is always working to be part of the solution to build a culture of family and support so that children have a nurturing and dedicated place to learn and grow.

Allison: Similar to Rose’s experience, Ella has grown leaps and bounds thanks to the amazing teachers, paraprofessionals and staff. Ella is currently on track or measuring above grade level (Kindergarten and some 1st grade). Ella’s math and literacy skills really took off once she came to ABES. Our daycare was great—but the teachers at ABES are really preparing her to be ready for Kindergarten. The school as a whole also made huge gains on PARCC scores in both reading and math last year, so the data also backs up our personal experience.

In addition to the wonderful teachers, we have great specials—art, PE, Spanish and music. Ella has become very interested in drawing thanks to our art teacher Ms. Schorn and I love hearing the different songs that Ella learns from Ms. Perry. Also, thanks to parent volunteers, the school has been able to grow aftercare extracurricular programs for younger students (PreK-2nd grade)—like karate, language immersion, soccer and dance. I could keep going on about all of the things I appreciate—but the last thing I’ll say is when I pick up Ella from school, she usually doesn’t want to come home. She wants to stay and keep having fun with her friends, which I think is another sign of a great school.

What excites you about the future of ABES?

Allison: There’s a lot of ground work that has been laid and continues to be laid to make Amidon-Bowen the #1 choice for all families that live in SW thanks to parents, Principal Sykes, teachers and community members and organizations. It’s been great to see the PTA growing in both diversity and membership, and all of the community-building that is happening inside and outside of the school. To quote one of our teachers, “ABES is the best kept secret in DC” but ABES may not be a secret much longer as families and the SW community continue to choose Amidon-Bowen.

Rose: I agree. If Amidon-Bowen continues on its path, the school will be one of the most sought after in the city. I am grateful for my time at ABES. It showed my girls how wonderful school and education can be with the right people and community structure in place.

For additional inquiries regarding Amidon-Bowen, email amidonbowendc@gmail.com.

By Southwester Staff

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