I want to begin by thanking Mrs. Lara and Dr. Latham for reading my blog. They were well prepared tonight. After I finished my request for an agenda item to review and update the board's parent involvement policy, Mrs. Lara asked for one of those now famous "clarifying questions". She asked Dr. Latham to explain the current policy.
Dr. Latham responded with a well prepared speech listing all the services and programs the district is providing parents. At the end of her lengthy presentation, I was allowed to ask my first ever clarifying question. I asked Dr. Latham if she could direct me to the written parent involvement policy that was developed with parents. She joined me at the podium and said she could and then she launched in to a well prepared slide show. The show included a slide of the same board policy I was asking to be reviewed. She never answered my question.
I went back to my seat to watch the show go on. Finally, after a few more minutes, I asked for a point of order. I told the board I felt this had already become an agenda item and it wasn't proper because the public wasn't aware this was going to be discussed tonight and therefore didn't have a chance to respond. The discussion was ended and will hopefully be renewed in a future board meeting.
After the meeting I was able to talk to Dr. Latham and she laid out her argument that the district's policy has resulted in more parent involvement through the programs and services they are offering. I told her I believed that with parent input, the programs and services would be more productive and more valuable. She told me she would consider my position but hoped that I would consider hers.
I came home and shared what happened tonight with my better half, Marti. She told me that she thinks Dr. Latham and I are talking apples and oranges. She said that the district and Dr. Latham have been providing ways for parents to become more involved through enrichment, learning and training. She pointed out that I wanted to see the district involve parents more in planning and decision making that formulate policy. We both know the administration does not want to relinquish that power back where it belongs, in the hands of the parents.
She was right. I admit there are many programs available for parents but the parents I talk to say they are more concerned about how our resources are being used. We understand that our elected officials are there to represent us but lately it appears to parents that the board works for the administration.
Tonight we heard from a parent, Cheryl Burge. She told us of the difficulty she has had addressing her concerns with the administration about how her child is being treated. She explained the nightmare she was experiencing while trying to follow board policies that are developed without parent input. She indicated she had tried to work with the administration for a positive outcome but that current policies force her to seek legal solutions. She has agreed to provide me a copy of her statement to post here in the next few days.
I want to see more parents coming to board meetings, serving on committees and helping formulate policy. I want to see a parent involvement policy that will direct the administration to find ways to make board meetings and committee meetings more accessible and available to the parents who want this level of involvement. I want parents like Cheryl Burge not to feel helpless when trying to help their kids. I may be the only parent out here feeling this way but I want the opportunity to prove I'm not alone.
Here is what I would like to say to our board members:
You have been elected, or appointed, to serve our community and to do what is right for our kids. I don't think any of you believe that once you are on the board you no longer need to listen to your constituents. I believe you would want as much input as possible from the people you represent. Please continue to talk to parents and be open to regular discussions with us. Right now all we have is five minutes at a podium in front of a room full of people to be heard. I am appealing to you, provide parents the opportunity to help make a difference and everyone will benefit.