SCHOOL OF THOUGHT – 04.04.17

What we love about our schools
by Shannon Szperski
PUBLICATION DATE: 04.04.17

Shannon Szperski

In January 2008, my husband and I bought our first house in Sylvania. I had attended Maplewood, Arbor Hills, and Northview growing up, while my husband had attended Central, McCord, Southview, and Northview. Although we both graduated from Northview and were proud Wildcat alumni, the house we purchased happened to be in Southview district.

About a week after we bought our Southview-districted house, my husband announced that he wanted our children to attend Northview. “Well, we just bought a house in Southview district, so our kids are going to Southview.” I assured him. With that, we started attending some Southview events, collecting orange and brown attire, and enrolling the kids in Southview-based summer camps. As time went on, the thought of going Cougar became easier and easier and even seemed to fit.

One thing that helped shift our black-and-gold mindset was that we were already falling in love with another unfamiliar school: Sylvan Elementary. My husband was a Central boy, and my parents sent four kids through the halls of Maplewood. I loved, LOVED, being a Maplewood Panther and wore my blue and gold heart on my sleeve. I no doubt shed a few tears when my elementary alma mater was torn down, but I was also excited to know a better space was being built for a new generation of Panthers.

Despite living all but one year of my childhood in Sylvania, as far as I can recall I had never set foot in Sylvan Elementary until my oldest child enrolled there. I didn’t really know anyone who had gone to Sylvan, and, in fact, I didn’t even know where it was located prior to scoping out Sylvania real estate. The only vague recollection I had of the Sylvan Bobcats was seeing their name written across rec softball uniforms from time to time.

Sylvan turned out to be a little different from the old Maplewood. There was only one floor instead of two, and art class was in a nice, centrally-located room instead of a creepy basement labeled with an old bomb shelter sign (of course, the creepy Maplewood basement was somehow totally endearing at the time). Much like my beloved Maplewood, however, Sylvan was a welcoming place filled with a friendly staff and the love of learning. My kids quickly made great friends, and so did I. Quite by surprise, the place I had reserved in my heart for the love of an elementary school quickly doubled in size.

Our family has had a unique Sylvania Schools opportunity in that we have attended seven of the 12 schools. As the Sylvania Schools Parent Organization president, I’ve been in every building this year and have had the chance to enjoy the unique flavor of each. Experiencing the district as a whole and interacting with staff members and families from each building provides a much more comprehensive picture of the district we live in. Regardless of mascots, school colors, and square footage, each Sylvania school emits that same welcoming atmosphere and love of learning in 2017 that I felt first entering Maplewood in 1981.

There are multiple types of division that exist within a school system. We are divided by geography – north, south, east, and west. We are divided by building – seven ways at the elementary level, three ways at the junior high level, and two ways at the high school level. We are divided by role – parents, teachers, administrators, paraprofessionals, transportation, disability services, custodial, and food services, to name a few. Though we are divided, we are also one.

With two very different paths to consider as Sylvania Schools treks through its redistricting process, a single focus remains: One Sylvania. Oneness does not mean uniformity, but rather unity. It means that we take all our unique parts and combine them to create a greater whole. It means that we do our best to create and maintain a community by appreciating our individual components.

Over time, we have all developed our own loyalties and the idea of creating a shift in this structure no doubt feels a bit daunting. In Sylvania, most of us have the wonderful problem of loving the place where we already are. It’s hard to think about being a Cougar when you were raised a Wildcat. Yet, when it comes right down to it, at the heart of it we’re all cats.
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Shannon Szyperski and her husband, Mike, are raising three children in Sylvania.
She is a freelance writer and president of Sylvania Schools Parent Organization.