Posted by Steven Levin on August 27, 2015 at 10:48 AM
Leon Carson is not your average dad. Although he denies it, Leon is more like a Super-Dad.
A resident of North Natomas, a neighborhood in Sacramento, Leon works in information technology for a state government agency. After watching the documentary “Waiting for Superman” a few years ago, Leon became interested in charter schools and eventually decided to send his daughter to Natomas Pacific Pathways Prep (NP3) Middle School. His daughter now attends NP3 High School, which is walking distance from their home.
Witnessing his daughter’s academic and personal growth inspired Leon to get more involved in the charter school movement. Last year, Leon signed up to become a school booster. Soon after, CCSA parent organizer Joanne Ahola reached out to him about getting involved at his daughter’s school, as well as on the campaign for Natomas USD Measure J, a $129 million school bond measure on the November 2014 ballot that aimed to improve facilities at Natomas schools. Notably, Measure J provided much needed funds for both traditional and charter schools to build new and improve existing facilities.
Leon said, “I’ve never really been involved [as a parent] before – the interest of getting involved was always there. In this case, all it took was a phone call from Joanne and a meeting at Starbucks.”
As a volunteer on the campaign, Leon phone banked and canvassed neighborhoods, speaking to other voters about the importance of the bond to local schools.
Measure J passed with over 70 percent of the vote. While it will take some time for the bond money to make an impact, the campaign has turned Leon into a more active parent. Not only does he volunteer early mornings at NP3 to alleviate the heavy traffic at the school, but he also tries to attend city council and school board meetings to keep his representatives accountable.
Below, Leon describes his experience with charter schools, working on the Measure J campaign, and how he has stayed involved with his daughter’s school.
Tell us about NP3 Charter School.
It’s a great school.
I’ve definitely been pleased with NP3. It has done well for my daughter. A majority of students need a different approach – they need something a little extra. I went to the back to school night and was really impressed with the energy and creativity that the teachers gave.
They weren’t just following the formula from the district. They had their own ideas on how to help out the students. They weren’t jaded or upset with the system. They weren’t fighting the administration. They were just trying to instill the love of the subject to the students. It’s their job to motivate and enlighten and get the students interested.
I’m grateful that my daughter has an opportunity to go to a school that is walking distance from our house, and provides a high-quality education in a high-quality environment. They really look after the kids. This is my way of showing my gratitude. Whatever the school needs, I’m going to do it.
What do you think about charter schools?
Charter schools have done well. I like that charter schools in general stand for what we can do to improve things for the students. I think charters can be more creative and focus on what works best for the students, not burdened by teacher contracts.
I think my daughter’s schools and charter schools in general are great. I want to do my part to make ensure my daughter and other kids have the opportunity to choose their schools. It doesn’t have to be an affluent area. Charter schools are better than the traditional public schools because they have the flexibility to change things up. I support kids having opportunity to get a quality education.
How did you learn about the Measure J campaign?
I filled out some paperwork for the boosters club at our school. Joanne made calls to see who would be willing to take it a step further – to volunteer not just for school, but for charters in general.
What inspired you to push for Measure J?
Measure J was needed to help fund the schools. Charter schools were included in the plan. [City Councilmember] Angelique Ashby was for it. CCSA was for it. School administrators were for it. I could get on board with it. This was my way of supporting what my school wanted me to do.
What was your role in the campaign? What did you do?
I did some phone banking and canvassing, passed out information and talked to voters in the neighborhood. I can honestly say that this was not in my comfort zone. I’m not well-versed with these issues. But once I made the commitment, I just followed through. And the more I did it, the more comfortable I was.
What do you think will come from Measure J? And what did you get from the experience?
I think it will take time for the bond money to come in, so I haven’t noticed a change at the schools yet.
One thing about getting involved in the campaign for Measure J – now I want to go to the school board meetings and city council meetings so I can see the changes. I have a busy schedule. I have a lot of things going on. It’s hard to do city council, school board and booster meetings, but I’m definitely interested in going to more.
What would you say to people who are considering getting involved in education issues and elections?
In my opinion, actions are better than words as far as showing gratitude. I just made a commitment, then I made another commitment. Now that I’m in it, it doesn’t feel like a burden. Also, if more people do it, it takes the load off others.
It’s rewarding. You do something and don’t expect anything in return. You get the reward of being a part of the school that my child attends.
I just want to feel like I’m doing my part.