Skip to content

Two Moms, Two Daughters, and One School Choice

This winter, Tiesha Brown had several decisions to make about her four-year-old daughter Joanna:

  • Keep her in Pre-K or withdraw and wait until next year?
  • If she stayed in school, go in-person or remote?
  • If remote, stay in her current school, or switch?

Joanna attends Immaculate Conception, a Partnership School where, even though her family receives a scholarship, Ms. Brown must still pay a modest amount each month for tuition. Her friends asked, “If you’re going to go remote, why not go for free” through her local public school?

“No way,” she decided. “Joanna is comfortable and she’s learning a lot. We’re not going backward.”

Quanishia Mosley also has a daughter at Immaculate Conception, although Tyler is in eighth grade.

ICS Eighth grader Tyler.

Ms. Mosley’s moment of decision-making came last winter, even before the coronavirus. At the time, Tyler was in seventh grade at a private school on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, one with a progressive approach to education that was nice for Tyler emotionally. But with high school fast approaching, Ms. Mosley was concerned that the approach “wasn’t working for her to learn all she needed to” for the challenges of high school that lay ahead.

“I wanted her someplace with both structure and support,” she said. She visited two Catholic schools. When she came to Immaculate Conception, she met with Principal Alex Benjamin, “and I was sold.” Her daughter transferred in March—one week before COVID forced all schools into remote learning.

At Immaculate Conception, just as at all Catholic schools, teachers know one thing about each child before they ever meet them: every one of them is there because an adult in their lives chose for them to be there. It is an honor to partner with parents who choose us to educate their children and to help them flourish; it is also a responsibility we know is a sacred one.

Hearing from parents like Ms. Brown and Ms. Mosley is valuable for us, and we are grateful to them for telling us the stories of the choices they have made that led them to Immaculate Conception. They can help us appreciate aspects of all our schools that we may take for granted, and they add nuance to our understanding of the contemporary range of families who seek out Catholic schools, which can help us serve them even better.

Looking for Rigor

Both Ms. Brown and Ms. Mosley share a quest for academic rigor that brought them to explore Immaculate Conception.

Ms. Brown’s daughter Joanna has been in daycare or school since she was 18 months old, crucial both for the strong start her mother wants her to have and for Ms. Brown’s responsibilities; she was working and trying to go to school, too. In a city-sponsored center that offers both daycare and Pre-K for three-year-olds, she found that “the daycare part was fine, but in Pre-K 3 Joanna wasn’t learning. She was going backwards, and I was afraid she was going to be behind in Kindergarten.”

Joanna, who was born significantly prematurely, receives physical therapy, and Ms. Brown was chatting about her concerns with the therapist—who happened to be an Immaculate Conception mom. She showed Ms. Brown all that her child was learning in Pre-K4 there, so Ms. Brown came to see for herself. Now, she says, “Joanna’s really learning. She’s learning math; she’s almost ready to read. And she loves it.”

Immaculate Conception Principal Alex Benjamin.

Ms. Mosley explains that when Principal Alex Benjamin “reviewed the middle school curriculum with me, I realized: this is academic. She’ll be learning here, learning the classics and critical thinking. She will also really be learning math, and that’s a struggle for her.”

Ms. Benjamin met with Tyler too, and she toured with a current middle school student. As a participant in the decision-making process, Tyler emphasizes now—a year later—how much she feels she is learning. The structure and rigor have paid off in an intriguing way as well; her mom says that “the fact that she is learning and receiving grades [not given at the progressive school] has helped tremendously with her confidence.”

Finding a Family Feel

While both moms went in search of rigor, they found a sense of caring that manifests itself in communication and competence.

Ms. Mosley shares that it was difficult for Tyler to transfer to Immaculate Conception only to have COVID force all schools into remote learning a week later. “It was challenging for her to get acclimated in a virtual setting,” she shares, “but the communication was bar none. I was paying a lot of money at her previous school, but I never got that.”

Both moms point to the way the school has handled their children’s learning differences as key to the sense that the school really cares. According to Ms. Mosley, “Ms. Benjamin, Ms. Rivera [dean], and Ms. Watson [counselor] sat down right away with her educational assessment, and Ms. Watson was on the call with the DOE psychologist. I’d done it before and figured it out, but now when there’s something I don’t understand, I know Ms. Watson is there to help.” Likewise, Joanna has ADHD, and Ms. Brown shares that the “Pre-K team really understand that.”

They feel as well that their daughters—and the moms themselves—are seen as whole people, and invited into a sense of community with everyday kindnesses. When Tyler has been out sick, staff member Sr. Francis Tran “goes out of her way to ask her if she’s feeling better; as a single parent, that means a lot.” And when Joanna contracted COVID outside the school, “Ms. Benjamin called often to see how she was doing.”

That sense of community comes up in more fun ways, too. Ms. Brown relates that Joanna “had a hard time at the beginning because she didn’t know how to pray. They took the time to show her; now she’s great at it. We let her do it at dinner time, and she corrects me— ‘no mommy that’s not how you do it!’” And if Kobe, Ms. Mosley’s dog, doesn’t accompany her to pick-up time, Ms. Benjamin is sure to ask about him.

In-Person and Remote Learning

Immaculate Conception, like all Partnership Schools, offers both remote and in-person learning, and the choice has been a deeply personal one for both Ms. Mosley and Ms. Brown.

“On the first day, I saw: they have this under control.”


Ms. Mosley involved Tyler in the decision. “Tyler and I sat down together. She came to the conclusion on her own that in-person was better; I didn’t want to force her. How often the Partnership communicated around the COVID protocols was helpful, and on the first day, I saw: they have this under control. So I felt completely confident; I wasn’t nervous, and Tyler wasn’t either.”

Joanna began the year in person. But she contracted the coronavirus just as the weather grew colder, and Ms. Brown is concerned that the bus she and Joanna take to get back and forth to the school is a particularly risky environment in the colder weather. So for now, Joanna learns from home. Ms. Brown likes the amount of asynchronous material they get for Joanna’s learning; she doesn’t want her on screens all day, and the flexibility allows her to pace Joanna’s activity breaks. ”If I don’t understand something,” she says, “I email her teachers. Everyone is very responsive—they don’t leave you sitting there for days.” Still, “she wants to be in school, see all her friends”—and both Joanna and her mom look forward to her being back in person.

More so than perhaps any year in recent history, the last one has highlighted the significant academic, emotional, and health impacts of decisions about children’s education. Those decisions are being made by public school boards, and by networks like ours. Most significantly, though, they are being made around kitchen tables, like Ms. Mosley’s and Ms. Brown’s. Parents are making choices—at least, those parents with either the personal or community resources to choose what they think is best for their children. The landscape has never been so varied for those with the means to access educational options, nor the divide as stark between parents who have the power to choose and those who don’t. We feel fortunate every day to be able to provide options to parents like these two moms.