{Smyrna Voices} Why I choose to send my son to a public school in Smyrna



Originally posted July 2, 2014

When I tell people I pulled my oldest son out of private school and placed him into a public school located in Smyrna, specifically, Smyrna Elementary School, I am sometimes met with a puzzled look followed by the words, “Oh, really?” or “Interesting”.  I wasn’t totally surprised by these responses because I am very familiar with the “playground” talk of parents with young children. But after the 10th “Oh, really?”, I was starting to get a little offended. Do these people think I would send my kid to a school that doesn’t provide an adequate education, preparing them for the world they will face when they graduate high school? I was beginning to think they did.


The decision on where to send your kid to school is a very personal and custom decision. One size does not fit all. What we as parents need to decide is what school prepares our child best for the world they will face; the world they will work and live in when they are 25, 35, and 45. Not the school that shelters or coddles our child, but a school that gives them the skills to overcome the realities of a sometimes harsh and very competitive world in a safe, loving environment.


What is important to remember is that the world our children will face is expected to be VERY different than the world we grew up in, and the world in which we currently exist. Our children will be judged on their ability to lead and relate to a globalized economy and an US population where the minority majority will make up over half the US population. According to the US Census Bureau, by 2050 non-hispanic whites will make up less than 50% of the US population. In 2050, my son will be 44, in the middle of his prime earning years, and he will be a minority.


My husband, having gone to both public and private schools growing up, left the decision up to me. Though I am pretty sure he wasn’t leaning towards the 22K a year for 1st grade option. I sat down with all of my information and research. Compared it to all the “playground talk”and came to the conclusion, that while facing challenges like all schools in CCDS, the elementary schools in Smyrna, including Smyrna Elementary, do provide a good education; an education that goes beyond test scores. An education that teaches my son how to get along and lead those who are not like him. Children who are different from him and children who are exactly like him in regards to race, religion, cultural background, income, and social status. And further more the curriculum is pretty much, if not exactly, the same as the East Cobb Schools that so many families in Smyrna flock to once their oldest comes of age. A fact that many people don’t seem to fully grasp, as if the curriculum suddenly changes when you cross over to East Cobb.


When I envision my son(s) as 25, 35, and 45 years old men I want them to be leaders of progress and change. I want them to be compassionate, educated men who lead global teams and companies.  Men who inspire others and in the end make the world a better place. Do I want them to have a safe job at a Fortune 500 company with a 401k and a good benefits package? Only if that makes them happy, but I hope they will rise to the challenge to speak for those who cannot speak and lead those who cannot lead. And personally, I think Smyrna Elementary provides that foundation through its curriculum, Leader In Me Program, and commitment to diversity. This is why I choose to send my son to a public school in Smyrna.



{Kimberly Watkins-Swenk is a freelance copywriter focusing on online content creation and management.  She received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of North Georgia and her Master’s Degree from Georgia State University. She lives in Smyrna with her two boys (7 & 4) and her husband, Jason.}


Kindergarten WM
















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  1. Jeanna Terry says:

    Strongly agree with public elementary in the Smyrna area. Both my kids did that. But after dealing with so bullying and safety concerns for my son in middle school, we had to pull him out. Both my kids will do private school for middle and HS for as long as we live in Smyrna. It’s sad because the teachers and education are great In public school. It’s the lack of parental involvement and safety concerns that make me question sending them there. If course it is a personal choice and I don’t judge anyone for what they choose. Best of luck.

  2. Kristin Dabson says:

    I agree that parental involvement is key and I would say it is on an upward trajectory. Both of my children go to public school in Smyrna. It started three years ago at Brown Elementary and we have never looked back. They’re now both at Smyrna Elementary and we couldn’t be happier with the education they’re receiving, in both academics and life.

  3. From the heart of an obsessively hard-working teacher at SES, I thank you for entrusting us and recognizing our school’s greatness!

  4. Cara Fort says:

    Amen, Kimberly! Very well said and I could not agree with you more on why we have chosen to send our son to Smyrna Elementary. Our experience over the last year exceeded all expectations. The teachers and staff epitomize the Leader In Me program and have had a profound effect on the students – both those that don’t have the option to attend private school and those that do. We as parents have the opportunity at any time to give our opinion to Principal Ward and it leads to action. I have two more children that will be of elementary age in the next few years and I’m excited about staying in Smyrna and having an amazing neighborhood public school to send them to. Ask questions, get the right information, go on a tour.

  5. Hayli M says:

    Thank you Kimberly Swenk for writing such a heartfelt, wonderful article about our schools in Smyrna and taking the words right out of my mouth! I have a rising 1st grader who attended the inaugural year at SES last year (and another one coming in a year). Principal Ward and Principal Rone, the staff and especially the teachers are exceptional leaders (we are a Leader in Me School) and educators that provide a challenging, fun and safe environment for our children. I am so frustrated with parents who make comments on what they’ve heard or seen and never walked into the school to see what is going on inside the classrooms. Atlanta, as well, as Smyrna is a very diverse city. We should, as parents, embrace this diversity instead of run from it. SES is not only giving my son an amazing education, but also teaching him how to function and compete in a world that is not homogenous. As Kristin states above, parental involvement is extremely important and we are making progress!! We have amazing parents that are joining forces and getting involved in our schools and community and are truly going to make a difference.

  6. Stephanie says:

    How do we make the middle schools and high school like the elementary schools? King Springs was wonderful and Griffin has been terrible. I can’t send him Campbell and I can’t afford private school as a single mom. How do you make the changes needed in public schools?

    • Alicia / Smyrna Parent Admin says:

      Stephanie, Thanks for that comment. I’ve wondered the same, and admittedly, this is mostly an elementary school conversation. I think the long term goal is that enough involved parents commit at enough elementary schools so that the parental involvement, improved test scores, and overall atmosphere “trickle up” to the middle and then high schools. But that does nothing for you and all the parents with middle schoolers who don’t have the luxury of waiting. I’d love to hear from a teacher or administrator on this topic, if any are reading!

    • Do you mind if I copy/paste this to the FB page as well?

  7. I would like to address one thing you wrote that appears to be pointed at private schools – coddling and sheltering. Quite honestly, I think my children can do with some sheltering from this world for a while, but I disagree with the coddling allegation. Homework demands are higher, behavior is much more strictly enforced, and my children and their friends have much more expected of them than I see in their public school peers.

    I do not and will not apologize for my children’s attendance at a private school. There is a reason that application rates are increasing at all private schools in the area, but many don’t want to acknowledge that parents will go where they feel (and statistics back up) their children are getting the best education.

    My children don’t worry about bullying, not wearing the latest style of clothing, or any of the other issues that plague the public education system. They’re staying put, and I am quite happy with their progress and their socialization skills.

  8. safety is not a concern at the high school. My son just graduated, is headed to Ga St, and never had any problems.

    • michelle says:

      I would like to address that the constant judgement made by families who choose private over public is exactly why this parent wrote her statement. You have successfully validated that by your response. The choice to go private verses public or vice verse has many factors for those who make these decisions, but to constantly pit one against the other (primarily private over public) is disheartening and in my opinion a pathetic example for our children, our future leaders. We should celebrate, encourage and expect ALL of our learning environments to do their best and not vocalize which is better than the other. Our children hear this, see this and ultimately live this type of attitude towards each other. Where is the success in making one feel less than another, especially when education is involved? I am a proud parent of a public school student, who has many friends with children in private and I can promise you, the education is not that much different and the behavior issues (to include bullying, poor behavior in the classroom, awareness of materialistic items, etc. are happening for them too). The difference, public can not dismiss a child because they are not a “good fit”, so if that is an important factor for a family, then great. Public school must teach and guide students in how to deal with children who have more difficulty, not ask them to leave. Just keep in mind, one day our children will have to work with that child who was not a “good fit”, hopefully ALL of our children as adults will be capable of working, living or existing with them. At the end of the day, our children are in all of these schools and as parents and members of our respected communities, we need to support one another, not tear each other down. I hope that the parents I meet who have their children in private and learn that my child is in a public school will look at me as an intelligent parent that made a choice and supports that choice because I would not want anything less for my child as a private school parent would want for theirs. We are ALL in this together, lets not forget that. Congratulations on your child’s recent graduation and future at the public college, Georgia State University. I feel certain he is prepared to attend this school, just as the students from our public high schools are prepared to do…..they all had to be selected based on the same criteria.

    • Alicia / Smyrna Parent Admin says:

      Congrats on his graduation and GA State!

  9. momoftwo says:

    The advanced learning programs at both middle schools are very strong, and the IB magnet at Campbell High has served my family well. With two kids through these schools, I can safely say they got a fantastic education thanks to great teachers in the programs. If more parents commit to making the schools successful, we will all see a difference, even in the high school (which has an average principal but strong magnet program).

  10. Kimberly is right on target: there is only one curriculum for Cobb County Schools, and it is available to all students. If you have a strong principal and involved parents, you will have a good school. The right principal will hire dedicated teaches and ensure that they have what they need to be successful in the classroom. It is exciting to see the momentum that is building among SES parents, and this will be a key factor in SES’s success. I commend each of you for being parents who make a difference in your school, and through that effort, also making our community a more desirable place to live. I hope you will call on me any time I can be of assistance to you.

  11. To share a quote I heard recently, its time to stop saying “I love Smyrna BUT….” and start saying “I love Smyrna SO…”
    …So, I am going to put my kids in Smyrna Schools and then get involved in the school, so I am going to participate in local politics and know who my representatives are and tell them what I care about, so I am going to participate in neighborhood and city activities, so I am going to strive to help change the things I don’t like in my city, so I am going to vote, so I am going to help keep my city clean, so I am going to volunteer, so I am going to teach my kids these same things about community, so I will support development that will improve Smyrna’s future, so I will not look the other way when I see illegal activity, so I will report crimes and criminals, so I will support my neighbors and build community!

    I don’t know about you all, but I love Smyrna so I am going to dive in head first! DIve in with us. Thank you staff of SES and PTA at SES.

    • Alicia / Smyrna Parent Admin says:

      Sean – that is beautifully stated, not just in regards to this education topic, but because of all the things you listed. That was a pleasure to read this morning.

  12. You wrote, “One size does not fit all.” I literally could not agree with you more! Common Core is a one size fits all, autocratic master plan designed by an unholy government/corporate team of power/control/profit seekers. The entire “fundamental transformation” goal encompasses public/private/charter/virtual schools, by co-opting the ACT and SAT national tests, and forcing every type of school to reverse engineer their curriculums and teaching to ensure students achieve a passing grade on these tests. And if college is the students ultimate goal, there is ONLY a “one size fits all”, teach to these test standards, solution. Any parent that fails to research, understand, and accept the reality of exactly who the Common Core “Founders” are, does their child a grave disservice. If you’d like to learn more, and simply hear a voice of intellectual reason, Dr. Duke Pesta is a brilliant educator, English Professor and researcher with a heart for teaching. Please invest your time to hear, “The rest of the story.” http://youtu.be/HeY6529g7ck

    • Seems to me the tenants of common core have been politicized and the issue has been wildly deamonized and exaggerated. At its heart common core was intended to ensure all students learn the critical basics. Im not sure that is a bad thing. Im no expert, but i know some who are expets and quite a few support common core. I urge people to research the true requirements of common core and not the pontifications and oinion filled and fluffed blogs of naysayers or proponents.

  13. Jessica says:

    This article is one of the most accurate I have read in a long time, however some of these comments disgust me. First of all, the continuous mention of “safety concerns” associated with Smyrna public schools is ludicrous and entirely unfounded. Being a recent alumni of a Smyrna public school I can personally attest to this. Not only is this accusation insulting to me, but also to every other student who is attending or has attended a Smyrna public school whom you find threatening to your child’s safety. I find it ridiculous that people continue to use “safety concerns” as an excuse for their blatant racism. Many of you will disagree with this accusation vehemently but you need to question why you consider the Smyrna public schools unsafe while you consider the private and public schools in other parts of Cobb County safe. Secondly, the idea that there is lack of parent involvement in Smyrna public schools is true to some extent. However, if people stopped pulling their children out of public schools in the area and made a commitment to improving these schools by becoming the involved parents that these schools lack a serious change could be made. Maybe instead of running to the schools that you deem “good schools” in other areas, or outside of the public education system you could try to make an improvement in your own community. Finally, after attending both Smyrna public schools and Smyrna private schools I can say with complete confidence that the level of academics in Smyrna public schools is on par with the level of education in Smyrna private schools as well as other public schools in the county. In addition, attending a public school in the Smyrna area better prepared me for the real world that I am now a part of, where the people around me are rarely anything like me in terms of race, ethnicity, religion, and culture. Thanks to my “unsafe” Smyrna public school education, I am able to attend my dream school tuition free and will forever be a proponent of public education in this area.

    • IB Graduate says:

      RIGHT ON

    • Unfortunately, parents and teachers have been rendered utterly powerless by our lack of political awareness. The fundamental transformation of education, known as Common Core, was birthed in the Feb. 2009 “stimulus” package. Two private trade associations, untouchable by any voter, have so consolidated power and control, PTAs might as well be wine and cheese clubs. Curriculum, standards, student tests, teacher evaluations, ACT/SAT content and student/teacher data collection mandates are beyond the reach or influence of parents, teachers, or principles. All copyrights for the radically redesigned, top down, one size fits all, federal education plan (Common Core) rests with the NGA (National Governors Assoc.) and the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers), both private trade groups based in Washington, DC. For all who care to learn more, I invite you to visit http://www.RobCunninghamUSA.com/Common_Core – Happy 4th of July to all.

    • Here’s another link worth 5 minutes of your time. Educatin is power. http://www.RobCunninghamUSA.com/Common-Core

    • Thank you for stating this

  14. Thank you Jessica!!! Your words ROCK!
    While I understand how the private school parents that have commented on this article would take offense to some of the comments, it is truly not the intent of the writer and have missed the point of what she is writing about.
    There are many Smyrna residents that can’t afford to send their children to private schools and then are faced with “what do I do because I have heard that the schools in Smyrna aren’t good (OR like me, choose public schools over private for many personal reasons). Many of our residents, friends and neighbors pick up and move to a suburb north of us in the SAME county with the SAME curriculum as our schools in Smyrna because the schools are “better”. No, as Jessica is saying, they are choosing to move to another school district where the population of the area is less diverse in race- that is the only difference. Seriously, would we keep our children in schools that aren’t safe and aren’t providing a great education?
    There are many of us that have chosen to stay in Smyrna because we love where we live, our community and want our schools to be known that they are as good or even better than those in that northern suburb of ours. We are choosing to send our children to our public schools in Smyrna so that we get involved, stop the rumors and keep our families here when their children are school age. We live in a great city and if everyone would try our schools and get involved before getting persuaded by the rumors that are out there, think about what this could do to our community, to our city and more importantly our schools?
    Yes the schools in our city are diverse, full of kids of different races & socioeconomic backgrounds- this is our world and it’s amazing.
    As far as Rob’s comments, not even going there- that is a whole other subject that maybe you should talk to the owner of the website in getting your own political rant published on another day.

  15. Mister Bill says:

    Rob Cunningham is an ideologue who just wants to shout EVIL, UNAMERICAN, OBAMA at everything he doesn’t like. If you give him any second thought, you are wasting brain cells. His alarmism about Common Core is pretty ridiculous, and I say that as someone who works for in education at the university and state level. I have no allegiance to any party, group, corporation, or anything else, and I am pretty happy with most aspects of CC. Some, like elements of math curriculum, could use more work, and I expect that to happen soon. But to freak out entirely is just a waste of energy. And…wasn’t this page dedicated to discussion of Smyrna schools? My daughter is at King Springs, and we love it! Other friends in the area love Nickajack and Teasley too; adding in Smyrna Elementary, and that’s a fine network of schools to build our future on. Hopefully we will see the impact over the next ten years in the middle and high schools.