Bryce Lyle recalls a playground conversation with another parent about their neighborhood school, Westover Hills Elementary. It was tinged with concern about sending a white child to a school where nearly all the children are black.
He related this at the recent TEDxGraceStreet conference, where he was invited to share his mission: getting parents to stop overlooking Westover Hills Elementary. A good school is being ignored by too many white parents, he says, and children who otherwise would grow up together are being separated into schools outside the neighborhood.
But to create a neighborhood school that reflects the face of the community, someone must take the first step. “Over and over, I hear nobody wants to be the first one,” he says. “Let’s not have a first one, let’s have a first 12.”
Lyle, a Westover graduate and a teacher popular in his own right in the Chesterfield County Schools, took it upon himself to become an ambassador of sorts. He formed a group called Curious About Westover, discovering that the campaign to open up the schools’ doors to parents has been much more successful than he hoped.
As a result of Lyle’s efforts, dozens of families have toured the school and some are enrolling their children. Curious About Westover continues to coordinate volunteer efforts for the school, and its Facebook group has more than 250 members.
Lyle says parents are finding a principal and staff eager to share “the best kept secret in Richmond Public Schools.” The pitch isn’t difficult, he says: “The selling point is getting people to walk in.”