“But no one…”

When I first came to NYC with three school-age children I was confronted by a near consensus view from old friends…”but no one sends their children to public school in NYC.” Followed by other suggestions. But, I stammered, there are more than a million children in NYC’s public schools…. Silence, embarrassed expressions. I felt naughty saying this.

But it wasn’t unanimous. Among the standouts was my friend Rochelle (Ricky) Flanders whose three children were attending NYC public schools!! I thought all three of her children were terrific, although they all had their share of complaints about schools, but also their share of good stories about teachers and friends. My children and I took their advice.

Both the naysayers and “sayers were right in their way,of course. Our public schools were not nearly as good as they needed to be. But it was that “no one” that was the clincher. I wanted my children never to think about “those others” as invisible, nonexistent. That was perhaps my priority in making the decision I did.

Ricky Flanders died yesterday after a long and painful struggle. She became one of my dearest friends and her younger daughter and mine became dear friends too. (And they continued the family tradition of sending their children to public schools in NYC) She was strong-minded (as opinionated as I was/am), outspoken, loving, loyal, smart as a whip, and extraordinarily well-read. She was an ally for me whenever I needed one–even about trifles. Her family suggests that friends and co-allies send money to the Association for Union Democracy in her name. Naturally, I agree. In this wish she reminds me of what kept our political lives joined at the hip (though we often disagreed!)–her tenacity on behalf of democracy and against hypocrisy. Thanks, Ricky and family.

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