Streams

A Call for Parent Power. Real Power.

Friday, December 16, 2011 - 08:10 AM

What do parents really want? Power.

That, at least, was the answer that parents and their supporters gave at a City Council hearing on Thursday on parent engagement.

The hearing was called to review procedures and policies in place to give parents a greater voice in their children's education, a mantra of school improvement efforts and something that Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott has spoken about frequently.

But according to Gotham Schools' Jessica Campbell, the meeting was in its third hour before parents even were able to speak, prompting one Gotham Schools commenter to note that, "the fact parents spoke after the D.O.E. and unions spoke, speaks volumes."

When they did have their turn, the parents were not shy about saying that they do not feel that they are as much of a priority as is frequently stated by Department of Education officials, given they have no real say on the Panel for Educational Policy, the community education councils or in school closings.

“The parents need power through legislation. Not engagement, not feedback, not any of those pretty words. We need a vote on the PEP,” Christine Annechino, president of C.E.C. 3, testified. “We have no voice. We have no power.”

The article goes on:

Concerns raised by council members and parents during the meeting included the cut of 57 parent coordinators earlier this year, the accountability and assessment of parent coordinators, the lack of communication about toxic school environments, and the relocation of last night’s PEP meeting. While the tone was civil throughout, the issues always came back to the fact that parents don’t just want to be kept abreast of issues in their child’s school, they want to have the power to effect change.

Similarly, Pamela Johnson, president of C.E.C. 11, questioned, “Where does the feedback go? It looks like you’re engaging us, but there isn’t any return from the D.O.E.”

The outspoken City Council member from Brooklyn, Charles Barron, suggested giving parents a say over curriculum, principal hiring and budget.

The article notes that the Division of Family and Community Engagement, headed by a Bronx parent, Jesse Mojica, has a staff of 95 people, 20 of whom work specifically for the division's initiatives "such as providing support for Parent Associations, training parent coordinators, and working on the Parent Academy, which is planned to launch in September." The division's budget is $8 million, and the budget for all parent-related initiatives is $105 million, it says.

Those figures prompted another commenter to note, "So why is it in the Bronx the 'so-called parent institute' will hold parent trainings from 4:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. sometimes until 8:00 p.m. and will not provide water to the parents?"

In other news Friday, The Daily News and others report on the arrest of a teacher, Charles Oross, 44, on Thursday, who was charged with having sex with a 13-year-old girl at his school, Intermediate School 238 Susan B. Anthony in Hollis, Queens.

Education Week reports on the expansion of a New York City program into New Orleans and Baltimore. The After School Corporation has brought its learning model of ExpandED schools, which has been a pilot project in New York since 2008, to those cities. The program expands the school day "by roughly three hours at 10 New York City schools, and grew to 17 within three years."

Now an additional five schools in New York have embraced the program, and three schools each in Baltimore and New Orleans, and with financing from the Wallace Foundation and the Open Society Foundations, among others, the model is expected to expand to more schools nationally over the next few years.

EdWeek reports:

The TASC model relies on partnerships with community organizations and blended public-private funding to add time for academic enrichment, instructional support, and professional development. According to TASC President Lucy Friedman, the model is scalable given the blended funding and strategic repurposing of existing school and youth development resources.

Congratulations to Public School 48 Joseph R. Drake in Hunts Point-Longwood, the Bronx, for being one of three schools to sing its way out of a pack of 492 schools nationwide that participated in the Glee Give a Note competition.

P.S. 48 submitted a video and emerged a winner after more than a million votes were cast. You can view all of the videos at www.gleegiveanote.com. SchoolBook hopes to report more on this win — which, not incidentally, means a whopping $50,000 for the school's art and music programs. Congratulations, P.S. 48.

And congratulations to the NYC iSchool, a public high school in SoHo, which recently received a makeover from the IdeaPaint company after two iSchool seniors, identified only as Alexis and Celina, submitted a video that "articulated the need for the student body to feel more connected — not digitally — but in a more tangible and personal way. They wanted to encourage more interaction between students, especially between grade levels."

Finally, a bit far afield, but The Boston Globe had an article last weekend that is going viral, with responses pouring in from around the world. Written by a friend of SchoolBook, Bella English, the article looks at an extraordinary family and examines the subject of gender identity with sensitivity. The article is long but worth your time.

And on Friday: The North Shore Animal League is not just a haven and helper for ailing or homeless pets. It is also an educator. Its Mutt-i-grees Curriculum will be presented at an assembly at P.S. 114 Ryder Elementary in Canarsie, Brooklyn, at 11:30 a.m. According to an e-mail, "P.S. 114 was one of the first schools in New York City to implement the Mutt-i-grees Curriculum and the assembly will be conducted by the students (sharing a bit of what they have learned ...)." Please post photos, videos and/or student reports on the P.S. 114 page on SchoolBook; it is as easy as posting to any social media site.

And as the first half of the 2011-12 school year winds down, we would like to know more about what is going on in your school. Post about your school's holiday or year-end events on your SchoolBook page, where we will note it and write about it.

Have a good Friday and a great weekend.

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