In 2002, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and then-Chancellor Joel Klein created the position of parent coordinator to ensure there was someone in each school directly responsible for supporting families. It was a noble vision: give parents a local contact for questions or concerns about their children's schools.
I started as a parent coordinator at my old middle school in District 7 in the South Bronx. It was so gratifying to be able to work there as an adult and help a still under-served community; it was coming full circle and fulfilled my need to give back. I wanted to be an example to students and parents that there is life beyond the “’hood.”
A major part of my job is to keep parents engaged in their child’s education whether it’s through a workshop, meeting with a teacher or a quick email. Whatever the method, my job is to make sure parents are aware. This can be quite a challenge when you are dealing with so many families facing serious needs and struggles. How can one person possibly address all of them?
The answer is simple: we can’t but I, and all the parent coordinators I know, try our hardest.
With all the talk of the new mayor and a new schools chancellor coming in January, parent coordinators are afraid. There is no guarantee that the next mayor will keep the position. And all indications are that parent coordinators are a low priority. I feel that now, and it makes me unsure about my own next steps.
My frustration comes from not being paid more, and not being valued as an integral part of the school system. Parent coordinators are not entitled to the same benefits as other employees of the Department of Education. I recently asked for a raise after five years of making the same salary, about $37,000 a year, and was told I would get a 2 percent increase. This works out to $0.27 more an hour. I brought my frustration and concern to the attention of my union rep and was told there was nothing he could do
So my question to the next mayor is a simple one: what about us? What happens to the parent coordinators and to the families we serve and the schools we support? What happens to our own families when we realize, as I have, that while leaders say our position is so important we really are taken for granted, underpaid and not protected.
The next mayor should create a network for parent coordinators so we have support available on a regular basis. I would love to see realistic forms of measurement for parental involvement, and a pay increase.
I am trying my best to hope for a better outcome but I think, if it ever happens, I will be long gone.