In an educational era marked by increasing numbers of parents scrambling for places in private schools while politicians argue over voucher programs to offset tuition costs, Lee Moore’s decision regarding his children could be viewed as somewhat unorthodox. Mr. Moore took his fifth grade son Austin out of private school, and enrolled both he and his sister Abbey at Richardson Independent School District’s Wallace Elementary.

“I’ve been a resident of this neighborhood for 20 years,” says Moore, “but I had never paid much attention to what was happening at Wallace Elementary.” Dissatisfied with the private school his son attended, Mr. Moore began to look at other options. What he found at Wallace impressed him greatly.

Wallace Elementary celebrated its 40th anniversary in October, an occasion that was marked by several new educational programs and the opening of a new wing to house fifth and sixth graders.

“The school improvements were financed by the RISD Bond Project,” explains Wallace Principal Teresa Gafford. “We were able to replace the portables with seven new classrooms and a computer lab.” Additionally, two pre-existing Kindergarten classrooms were converted into one large 300-square-foot space that the two classes share. The school’s renovations also included a new library.

While Lee Moore was impressed by the upgraded facilities at Wallace, it is what happens inside the school doors that made the biggest impact. “I feel that, particularly at public schools, success really depends on the level of parent participation. I was overwhelmed by the number of volunteer opportunities parents have,” he says.

Moore and his wife, Michelle, are active in various clubs and committees, including the Dad’s Club and the Environmental Committee, which is working to beautify the school. The school maintains an open door policy with parents — they are encouraged to drop by the school for any reason, at any time. Recently, Wallace Elementary received Honorable Mention for The Board of Trustees Silver Cup Award for Community on Campus, an award that recognizes schools that attract a high level of parental and community involvement.

Principal Teresa Gafford is happy to have the Moores at Wallace Elementary, and thinks that public schools are rapidly catching up with private schools. “Our classrooms are becoming less crowded, and our computer lab and classroom workstations keep us technologically competitive,” she says. “Additionally, I believe that many parents value the diversity found in public schools.”

In a time when everybody is talking about what is wrong with public education, Lee Moore looked no farther than his own neighborhood to find out what is right. “I have lived in Lake Highlands for 20 years and never gave Wallace Elementary a second thought for my older children,” he says. “I have been converted by the great things I see going on at that school, and I would encourage private school parents to take a closer look at our public schools.”