Clark story could hurt

One sure effect of the Hook's piece on the implementation of federally mandated School Choice at Charlottesville's George Rogers Clark Elementary is that its title­ "Stigmatized"­ is self-fulfilling for those readers whose only knowledge of the school comes from reading the Hook.

Reporter Lisa Provence's lead predictably begins with the Hook's editorial obsession with Belmont's property values before moving on to the unsubstantiated assertion that Clark's roster of students has already been depleted. Aside from a glaring lack of context on the complex issues surrounding the federal No Child Left Behind Act, critical readers will no doubt question the dubious decision to spotlight a parent whose children have never attended the school. But the story might also lead one to wonder where on earth Clark's students must come from. We feel our experience offers a relevant perspective on the subject.

When our eldest child started kindergarten, we implemented our own school choice-­ and chose Clark. Though we live within sight of the school, a quirk of the school division's boundaries required an application for out-of-zone transfer to the school. Three things guided this decision: our need for a walkable neighborhood school, our sense that immersion in a diverse student body would benefit our daughter, and our extremely positive impression of principal Art Stow and Clark's professional staff.

Three years on, this choice continues to reward us all-­ not the least our rising second grader, whose talents and interests have been deepened and enriched by the school's instructors and curriculum-­ including the citywide Quest program. By embracing our responsibility as parents to become actively involved in our daughter's education, we also enjoy unexpected blessings from participating in the Clark community and working with other parents to enhance the quality of family, civic, and academic life in Belmont.

Finally, the story gives no indication of the improvements Stow and his committed staff have made at Clark during the past six years, which have earned high praise from parents and administrators alike. The city's school division, school board, and parents are fiercely committed to helping them erase the "stigma" your story assigns to Clark. This subject is not as ripe a target for the flippant social stereotyping at which the Hook excels, but by failing to explore it more fully, you fail your readers and the community of which you, too, are a part.

Tish Riley and Kyle Copas