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ImageConcerned Parents of Sewanhaka Central High School District, Inc.: Using Strength in Unity To Foster a New Paradigm for Parental Involvement and Community Engagement

The research is very clear that parental involvement in education is a key factor in the success of students. The U.S. Department of Education publication "Strong Families, Strong Schools" (September 1994) cites seven different research studies indicating that family involvement is more important to student success than family income or education. Families and community members consider it their right to be involved in their children's education and want to be at the decision-making table.
New pressures of regents' diplomas, assessments, and accountability in education reform point out the need to try a different approach for the 21" Century. But many institutional barriers are still in place from the old 20th Century model of traditional bureaucratic leadership. Hopefully, with a new Superintendent in place, a new collaborative, responsive style will be adopted to overcome these barriers to help ensure the success of all of our students.

Under the old model, parents and community members in the Sewanhaka Central High School District were encouraged to participate in a supportive role. Parents and community members attended athletic events, music events, parent-teacher meetings, and the PTSA meetings. But it seemed as if trying to participate at a more meaningful level was often discouraged and this became systemic and part of the institutional culture. It became routine under the old administration at Board of Education meetings for parents to be invited to leave after the award ceremony, as though parent's opinions regarding issues discussed in the business segment were not valued. The audience Agenda at the meetings does not have attachments, particularly section "F" of board policies up for revisions. Including them would allow families and community members to review it and participate in an informed, thoughtful, meaningful manner prior to the vote at the next meeting. In contrast to our elementary school districts, there is no opportunity to address the Board on the Agenda prior to a vote on policy revisions. If you went to the Elmont library to look up a board policy, you will see a copy of the elementary school district policies but not the central high school districts. If you look at the minutes, you will see a very brief synopsis of community comments but you will not see community statements the speakers asked to be included in the minutes, setting forth their complete arguments on issues. The budget details were not released during budget hearings, as is done in other districts, denying the public and opportunity to question priorities. These barriers to information under the old model turn our Board of Education meetings into an empty ritual instead of an opportunity for citizens to participate in the democratic governance of our schools. In the 21St century, parents and community members are already over-burdened by the pressures of work obligations and time pressures. Parents and community members do not need more reasons not to be involved with their children's education. When their involvement is limited or controlled, it is easy to become discouraged. Recent fraud scandals in other districts certainly point out that the old system does not work. Our school district needs a new, transparent, collaborative model of parent involvement and community engagement for the 2 1St Century.

The traditional bureaucratic leadership of the old model may have encouraged divisiveness among parents, community members, and the component districts, having them compete against one another for services or resources. Parents and citizens must learn an important lesson from teachers. Divisiveness does not work. There is power in numbers. Teachers are powerful stakeholders in the education system because they are unionized.

Concerned parents of Sewanhaka Central High School District, Inc. was incorporated in September 2003. The organization is a non-profit, community-based, parent advocacy organization whose mission is to promote parental involvement in the democratic governance of our schools in order to effect positive change for students. Our membership is open to all community residents in the component districts. The organization is a tool so that parents and community members may insist their voice be heard. We meet once monthly to bring up issues in the community setting first, to clarify thoughts and determine questions to ask, before raising issues in the school setting. With the support of one another, we are empowered to promote positive change for all of our children. After all, these are the public's schools and it is the education of our children. To join call Margaret Murphy (516) 485-6572 or e-mail her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Last Updated ( Tuesday, 30 November 2004 01:09 )  

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