New generation of parents, a different perception
At the end of my gym workout, I remembered that the PTA was about to hold their meeting at M.W. Downing school just few blocks away. The school serves grades K-2 and I no longer have kids there, but I haven’t attended a meeting there for at least a year. So I was curious. My generation of parents will remember how the previous management exposed us to hour-long lectures on bus safety, picking up kids on time, and the common core stuff. Information that would have larger impact, if sent home via backpacks to all parents.
This meeting was swift. The principal summarized past month in his report and introduced the new school nurse, all in 20 minutes. The parents proceeded with a discussion. They questioned the usefulness of reading logs. Some viewed the log as an element that helped with the daily routine, but others were getting by without the logs. As parents were discussing their own, alternative reading practices, I kept thinking how knowledgeable these newcomers were. They sounded as they would be following blogs dedicated to reading. For example, Pernille Ripp’s blog.
Parents were also asking about committees they could join. They made the principal promise he would bring a list of available committees. I remembered I had asked the same question when my kid started at Downing school. I needed an appointment. In my naïveté, I thought the building manager would show me a list of committees, instead she opened a folder and went through sheets of paper. Despite numerous sheets in the folder, there was no committee for me (public) to join, as all were “internal.” Read: non-public, membership by appointment only. I may find my notes and we’ll be able compare the progress our community has done since.
The parents at the meeting were energetic and determined to get involved. A committee sign-up sheet, or two, circulated among the participants. “And we’ll do it right,” someone stated, referring to the public process and enrollment. One parent inquired specifically about a hiring committee. My jaw dropped. What? I asked myself: “Have they read Hacking Leadership by Tony Sinanis and Joe Sanfelippo? Both authors (@TonySinanis @Joe_Sanfelippo) are well-known in Malverne school district for their other book (Power of Branding…) that we discussed at several meetings. These parents were so well informed. I would not be surprised, if they were following the #hackingleadership on Twitter. It’s a “column” that district and school leaders use to share their practices.
Building on a quarter-century-old resolution
A hiring committee falls in the category of shared decision making committees. A quarter century ago, the NY Department of Education laid a foundation for their implementation, passed the Resolution 100.11 and provided communities with guidelines. Recently, the National PTA developed a set of standards for successful home-school partnership and one of the standards covers the shared decision committees. Yet the standards (a 72-page PDF) have to be discussed among the PTA membership. And then, there are conferences. These days, any conferences includes sessions dedicated to the community-school partnership. Resources are abundant.
I reflected on PTA meetings at other schools in our school district. For example here, at Davison Ave. school. Parents at that meeting also brought great suggestions for various initiatives. But parents at this meeting at Downing raised the bar again. Evidently, they viewed themselves as agents of change in their schools. They were so well informed. And most importantly, they were willing to put their knowledge in action.
I am very glad made the detour on my way from the gym and attended the meeting. It confirmed my opinion that with each incoming generation the perception is progressively shifting toward the public model of schools, as it was conceived. In such the public leads the schools in partnership with the administrators and educators. And really progressive leaders are including students in the partnership as well.