Imagine a District growing a group of knowledgeable parent volunteers through their school parent advisory groups and Parent University. Parents who want to help other parents learn to work with the schools, help their students be better students and advocate for their child's education. Take that just one step further to a community of learners that embrace education and cultural diversity.
In my experience, the majority of parents want to be more "present" in schools, they just don't know how. Not enough parents know enough about the system to effectively make an impact and this needs to change. Parent advisory groups and Parent University is certainly a start. However, in my opinion, it is incumbent upon not just the District but also the City and community leaders to actively work to engage citizens i.e., parents and educate them about the schools and community connection, otherwise folks will continue to sit on the sidelines and we will continue to get what we got.
Early last year, I came across a program that is similar to the Community Leadership School (CLS) that is put on each year by the Peoria Chamber of Commerce. Instead of operating out of ICC like CLS, this program could be instituted much cheaper at the District's Community Schools. Instead of doing a ride along with a Peoria Police Officer, this program would have students ride along with a School District Officer (you get the idea). The students would learn about programs, school finances, board governance, etc. Check it out...
Austin Independent School District's strategic plan includes emphasizing the link between community and parent involvement and increased student achievement. The school board wanted to develop an effective and effcient way to increase the awareness and involvement of parents and community members. It also wanted to build a cadre of leaders and advocates for the district (i.e., a school board succession program/Emerge).SolutionThe AISD UpClose program began in 2007 as a step toward achieving those goals. Participants in the program fully represent the ethnic, cultural, and geographic diversity of the Austin community. The program reaches out to audiences that have been traditionally difficult to engage. It provides participants with opportunities to meet and interact with a number of district and community leaders. Participants attend monthly classes over 10 months at various sites across the district. Classes cover a wide range of topics. Program participants learn how the district and campuses operate, as well as becoming familiar with district challenges and issues. They help identify possible solutions and opportunities for community partnerships and collaboration.UpClose maintains an interactive website and produces monthly television shows on various topics. The program increases the awareness of participants. It also prepares them for advocating for the district within the community and for service on district campus committees and task forces and even the board.Members of the school board embraced the program and welcome new UpClose participants at their first class, provide presentations on board governance, and congratulate participants at a special graduation event. The board draws upon UpClose graduates for service on board appointed committees. Further, the board values the importance of the program in grooming community members for possible board service.This Magna Award winning program has been very successful for the Austin Community. the community interest has increased so much that more classes have been added to meet demand. The success of the AISD UpClose program has been noted by other districts, as well as other governmental agencies, who have inquired into the nature and scope of the program.
|AISD 2011 Graduating Class|
Our City/County officials are looking for ways to collaborate right?
We have CLS growing community leaders; Peoria County currently does a citizen’s “school”, and the City used to do a neighborhood college program; wouldn't it be great if the District/City/County could collaborate and put on something like this? Isn't this program just one more aspect of engaging parents and increasing involvement; thereby improving our schools and educating our community?
Additionally, another School District/City/County collabo could be making sure the public is fully informed by working together to televise school board meetings (just like the County Board and City Council meetings are televised). Check out this District - how difficult and/or expensive can this be, really?