Parents in process of realizing their stakes in public schools


Public meeting of parents

A group of parents (PTA) met to chat about issues related to Davison Ave school on January 17th. The meeting attracted about 20 parents and two administrators—no teacher was present. At the opening, the speaker recalled past events, expressed compliments on how the SEPTA holiday event was organized (in December at DAV), praized their committee on the movies selection, and their new idea to invite families to take holiday pictures. She also thanked the photographer for the beautiful pictures, later distributed in frames, ready to be hung, and announced the recipients of gift cards the PTA awarded to parents for their collection of box tops.

Public agenda

After the initial recap and announcements, the meeting turned into an open discussion. Parents learned about issues, expressed their opinion, made decisions and took positions. There were many topics discussed. For example, Common core benchmarking and the school’s participation in the Global school play day on Feb. 7th.

Among others, the issue of homework assignments stood out. Some parents consider the homework important while others don’t. How do you accommodate both sides? The group also made a decision to distribute a state test refusal letter via backpacks. Together with the tests, the rule of 95% participation came up. (On the day of the meeting, the USED approved the NYS ESSA plan that states the schools will self-assess. Yay.)

“Public” in public schools

This informal “talk” at the meeting encourages parents to pursue topics in more detail on their own and share their research in public. The conversations among the parents revealed a tremendous energy that is waiting to be directed to the proper channels. The fact that more informed parents make better decisions that lead to better student outcomes is well documented. It’s been known for so long that, finally, in the 1990s, the policymakers adopted a resolution that each school will maintain a public committee that will harness this “public” energy to further develop issues the schools are facing. The meeting showed the Malverne UFSD community is slowly approaching to the phase of understanding the role of “public” in public schools and the importance of the instrument—a task-oriented public committee—at their disposition. We just have to keep in mind at each PTA meeting how much further the parents could progress on a specific issue of their interest in a specific committee. (See schools in Wallingford, CT, example).


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