Go Public: Film Project Gives 'Day in the Life' Perspective to Public Schools

Go Public tells the stories of 50 students, parents, volunteers, teachers, and district staff for an entire day.

Think you know what it's like to learn and work in a public school in the United States? Spend a little time watching Go Public, a film project that followed students, parents, volunteers, teachers, and school district staff in a suburban Los Angeles school district for one day last spring, and you'll see public education with fresh eyes.

The project followed 50 individuals from sunup to sundown and filmed at 28 different campuses and reveals the nuances of "what goes on during a typical day in a public school setting" in the racially, ethnically, and economically diverse Pasadena Unified School District. Entertainment industry vets James and Dawn O'Keefe, whose own kids attend public school in PUSD, came up with the concept after a local parcel tax measure that would've generated $7 million a year for the cash strapped district failed with voters. They set out to tell the real story of what goes on in the district—"what works and what doesn’t"—so that Pasadena residents, many of whom hadn't been on a school campus in years, have a better "understanding of the strengths, weaknesses and needs of public education as a whole."

The project can be watched in 50 separate, less than 5-minutes long video profiles of the people the filmmakers and their crew followed. You'll see the stories of several students, including those enrolled in dual language Mandarin and Spanish classes, a young teacher who's likely to be laid off due to budget cuts, a controversial school board member, and a stressed out superintendent.

Several of the clips, like this one of Washington Middle School custodian Felix Lopez, will inspire you and probably get you a little teary-eyed. Thanks to budget cuts, Lopez is one of only two custodians at his school. You get to see how hard he works—and then you find out Lopez only went to school till fourth grade because his family lived in poverty. Now he gives his all to making sure Washington's students—and his own 10th grade daughter—succeed:

With 90 percent of students in the U.S. attending public school, the stories the film tells are surely universal. To that end, the filmmakers have also launched a Kickstarter to raise $25,000 by October 18th so they can finish creating a full length documentary out of their hundreds of hours of footage and get it distributed. The O'Keefes hope the film can "inspire advocacy" and help Americans "become informed advocates for their local public schools."


Four black women, Engineers Christine Darden and Mary Jackson, mathematician Katherine Johnson, and computer programmer Dorothy Vaughan, worked as "human computers" at NASA during the Space Race, making space travel possible through their complex calculations. Jackson, Johnson, and Vaughn all played a vital role in helping John Glenn become the first American to orbit the Earth.

They worked behind the scenes, but now they're getting the credit they deserve as their accomplishments are brought to the forefront. Their amazing stories were detailed in the book "Hidden Figures: The American Dream and the Untold Story of the Black Women Mathematicians Who Helped Win the Space Race" by Margot Lee Shetterly, which was later turned into a movie. (Darden was not featured in the movie, but was in the book). Johnson has a building at NASA named after her, and a street in front of NASA's Washington D.C. headquarters was renamed "Hidden Figures Way."

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We spend roughly one-third of our life asleep, another third at work and the final third trying our best to have a little fun.

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