The Peoples family

Globe Staff

Updated: Oct. 2, 2011 -- Four-year-old J’ovanni Thomas almost didn’t make it to kindergarten at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton.

Family photo
J'ovanni Thomas on his first day of kindergarten at the Conservatory Lab Charter School in Brighton.

His single mother, Chantel Peoples of Mattapan, did not get a transportation schedule until the week school started, sending her in a panic over how she would get J’ovanni, his 3-year-old sister Jazmyn Thomas, and herself off to school and to work on time.

At first, Peoples wrestled with the idea of pulling J’ovanni from Conservatory Lab, well-known for its music curriculum and excellent teaching, and sending him to one of the schools in the Boston public system he was admitted to earlier this year. But she felt that would be cheating him out of a unique and enriching education.


People’s, who had been tardy numerous times to her job at a downtown call center, was also weighted down by a bigger worry: She did not want her schedule to determine what school J’ovanni attended.

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In the end, she resolved her work schedule to start 45 minutes later. Now she gets Jazmyn out into a van and off to Pope John Paul II Catholic Academy in Lower Mills Dorchester. She then gets J’ovanni off to the school bus stop two long blocks from her Mattapan apartment. And she has a bit more time to scramble to catch the bus and train to make it to work by 9:15 a.m.

The mornings are still hectic, but People’s said she is happy to work out a plan that fits the family.

“[J’ovanni] was telling me every day how much he loves his school,’’ she said. “So I made the right decision. And that makes me happy.”

Updated: March 28, 2011 -- After weeks of waiting, Chantel Peoples, a single mother of two from Mattapan, finally got some good news about where to send her son, J’ovanni, for kindergarten this fall.


But the news did not come from the Boston Public Schools lottery, which assigned 4-year-old J’ovanni to the Holland Elementary School in Dorchester -- which ranked seventh on his mother’s list of school choices.

Now Peoples, who had also signed up J’ovanni for METCO and charter schools, has her sights set outside the district. She said she was excited to learn recently that J’ovanni had been accepted into Brighton’s Conservatory Lab Charter School, which offers a full-day program, transportation, music, and meals -- key requirements for Peoples.

“That means I wouldn’t have to spend so much money providing meals,’’ she said. But she’s still trying to determine where to send her 3-year-old Jazmyn, who, along with her brother, is attending preschool at Berea Seventh Day Academy near their home in Mattapan.

Peoples had signed up Jazmyn for Lee Academy Pilot School and Ellison/Parks Early Education School. But Jazmyn did not get into either school and has been waitlisted.

March 13, 2011 -- Chantel Peoples, clutching on to hope and her children's winter coats, huddled over a computer at a school-registration site in Roxbury.


Like the other parents streaming in and out of the North Zone Family Resource Center on the snowy winter afternoon, Peoples had come to give her two children – Jazmyn Thomas, 3, and J'ovanni Thomas, 4 -- an early shot at a public education through the lottery process for kindergartners.

But she has little say about where they go. Peoples, a 26-year-old single mother, is trying to get back on her feet after a stint in a homeless shelter a few years ago. The shelter's advocates had helped her get a job and obtain day-care vouchers for the children that included free transportation.

Jazmyn and J'ovanni were not learning in the day care, and in February, Peoples enrolled them in preschool at Berea Seventh-Day Adventist Academy in Mattapan to acclimate them with schooling. But she can't afford to keep them there.

She wants them in a public school with all-day service, a strong academic program, and transportation --all free benefits for a struggling, working mother. But finding all her requirements in one school has been challenging, she said.

"It was hard at first because you want what's best for your children,'' Peoples said as her children romped around. "When you go into a situation where you have these schools to look at but you are not finding what you are looking for, it kind of brings you down a little bit."

A lifelong Boston resident, Peoples works as a community relations representative at Massachusetts Behavioral Health Partnership. She wants to stay in the city, but she is prepared to leave the school system if she has to. She registered the children for METCO -- a voluntary desegregation program that sends Boston students to the suburbs -- and applied to charter schools. And if the children do not get into a school of her choice this year, she said she is planning to move to Quincy or Milton.

But now, she waits for word. She may keep Jazmyn in Berea Academy if she doesn't get either of her two K-0 choices, but she's willing to go down her list of about a dozen possible choices for J'ovanni.

"I'm willing to give the other schools a try,'' she said. "A lot of people don't want their kids in Boston public schools. I don't want to say that the Boston public schools are not good. But I also don't want to take the chance of my children being in that position of not getting the education that they deserve."