Tuesday, February 15, 2011
District 6 Parent Advocacy Training Program
I have established a 10 week Parent Advocacy Training Program in District 6, northern Manhattan, to help build the next cohort of parent leaders.
This bi-lingual program, in conjunction with the Medgar Evers College Center for Law and Social Justice, attracted 35 people to each of its first two sessions. It has the support of both northern Manhattan City Council members, Robert Jackson and Ydanis Rodriguez. It has been endorsed by the District 6 CEC, the Community Board Youth and Education Committee, and the full Community Board 12. Attendees have included six CEC 6 members, the President of the Presidents Council along with a number of other PA Presidents, and emerging leaders from a half dozen district schools. Parents from numerous schools, who with the destruction of district structures no longer meet and interact with one another, will have an opportunity to share experiences and thoughts in order to build strength to confront the catastrophic conditions in District 6. 20 years after initiating the Campaign For Fiscal Equity lawsuit, we still have numerous classes with 30 students in almost every school, and at 30 District 6 schools more than two thirds of students are at level 1 or level 2, to which the Department of Education is giving a paltry extra $ 200 per student to remediate. Yet for many years there has been little parent mobilization in District 6, with many schools not even having functioning Parent Associations.
The Center For Law & Social Justice of Medgar Evers College has conducted a Parent Advocacy Training Program in central Brooklyn and elsewhere for many years. For 3 months last winter I attended their program in Crown Heights, Brooklyn to witness how they organized their sessions, in order to create a similar program in District 6. What they have conducted (until they lost their funding this year), and what I have now imported to District 6, can provide a model for the kind of program promised by the still unrealized Citywide Parent Training Academy which was to have been established by the 2009 NYC school governance law passed by the NY State legislature that reauthorized Mayoral control of NYC schools.
Establishing such a program is arduous and time consuming. It requires developing a comprehensive curricula, assembling reference materials for study and discussion, and inviting a roster of expert speakers to inform and stimulate. In a district like mine it also requires hiring someone to provide simultaneous oral English-Spanish- English translation for all sessions, and finding people to translate into Spanish numerous data filled documents. Dinner must be provided to parents attending from 6:30 to 9 PM, and child care services offered, to enable those with young children to attend. A small grant promised by the two Council members has allowed me to provide oral translation and dinner for attendees, but this year I was unable to provide child care, thereby unfortunately excluding many more who would have enrolled in the program.
I have drawn on many prominent activists to give presentations in order to help direct the discussions. Last week for 2 non-stop hours after I summarized the tragic performance statistics for District 6 schools, Jessica Garcia, former spokesperson for the Campaign For Fiscal Equity, and Sarah Morgridge, long time Chief of Staff for Council member Robert Jackson, led a discussion on the history of CFE, the fallacies of the Blue Book Capacity and Utilization formulas, and the loss of cluster room spaces in our District. The latter has occurred as schools are consequentially co-located when the DOE erroneously asserts that our schools are undercapacity, thereby maintaining the large class sizes and overcrowded schools which the CFE lawsuit was meant to eliminate.
Subsequent weeks will address:
--- Various models of Parental Involvement -- that of the DOE, the former United Parent Association (UPA), about which Jan Atwell will speak, the Coalition For Educational Justice (CEJ), presented by Ocynthia Williams, and the Parent Commission proposal for an Independent Parent Union/Organization to be presented by Warren Miner.
---- Deputy Chancellor Shael Suransky will present the DOE operating concepts pertaining to Teaching, Learning, & Accountability, to which teacher-activist Julie Cavanagh will be responding.
--- Similarly, DOE Charter School Division Chief Recy Dunn will present the DOE view on the value of Charter schools, to which Mona David will respond.
--- Melanie Reyes of the NY Immigration Coalition, and Patricia Connelly, Special Education consultant/advocate will speak respectively on issues pertaining to ELL and Special Education students. The full schedule and curricula are attached at the end of this summary of the program.
The purpose of the program is to provide a roadmap for parents --- to enable them to see a way from here to there, after first defining what the here and there mean for them: Examining what kind of education parents want for their children, and exploring what currently is being provided. Presently many parents struggle to do any of this -- understand the current system, articulate what they believe the system should provide, and assert what their role should be in the crafting of a different system, operating under different structures, provision of resources, and values.
This is intended to be a pilot program in my District. Hopefully it will continue, so that after a few years, in time for the 2015 next round of School Governance legislative consideration, there will be 150 to 200 trained and motivated parents in District 6 who will provide leadership to mobilize our community for a different direction for educational policy.
The District 6 program may also serve as a model for those of you in other Districts who may want to replicate such a program. With a committed leadership that is not hand chosen by the DOE and its allies, substantive District based Training Programs could help provide the foundation for engaging tens of thousands of parents in ways that has not occurred during the last 10 years.
Last year, The Medgar Evers Center for Law & Social Justice, led by its longtime activist Executive Director Esmeralda Simmons, Esq, submitted a proposal to the City Council for great expansion of its Parent Advocacy Training Program. It requested $ 250,000 to hire staff and develop liaisons in many communities. The City Council declined to act on this request..
Anyone interested in discussing establishing such a program in their District, or in developing a plan for reaching out to your local Council members to support funding of The Center For Law & Social Justice's efforts to establish such programs in districts in each borough, is welcome to contact me. Anyone wanting to attend sessions of the District 6 program is also welcome to contact me. The sessions are conducted Wednesday evenings from 6:30 to 8:30 PM at 168th Street and Broadway. The "A" and #1 trains stop right there.
Proposals for the next City Council budget cycle will be due within 6-8 weeks.
So too for the State legislature, to compel it to act on its commitment for a Citywide Parent Training Academy, and to ensure that the activist community has a role in deciding its structure and leadership.
An Independent Parent Advocacy Training program is possible to establish in many Districts
Especially in this time of municipal budget hardships we will need to act forcefully and with coordination if we are to be successful in extracting the requisite funding necessary to extending this type of program to other Districts, and to keep any such programs under the control of those who will truly engage parents in meaningful discussions and advocacy, now that OFEA has dropped any pretense of engaging in advocacy.
CURRICULA & SCHEDULE FOR DISTRICT 6 PACT PROGRAM
DISTRICT 6 PARENT ADVOCATES COMING TOGETHER
Parent Training Program CURRICULA
10 week program January – March 2011 Wed 6:30-8:30 PM
1) Jan 12 Introduction Esmeralda Simmons, Director of Center for Law & Social Justice Josh Karan. District 6 PACT Program Director
What Kind of Education Are You Seeking For Your Child
Goals of education; how determine; how measure success; is this what is occurring in your school
2) Jan 19 State of District 6 Jessica Garcia, formerly with Campaign For Fiscal Equity
Sarah Morgridge, office of Council member Robert Jackson
What Is The State of Student Performance At District 6 Schools
Test Scores; ARIS; NCLB; Class Size/Overcrowding/ Campaign For Fiscal Equity (begun in District 6)
3) Jan 26 Parent Involvement Rebecca Alicea DOE District Family Advocate
Jan Atwell, NY City Council former head of United Parents Association
Ocynthia Williams Coalition For Education Justice
How is the NYC School System Structured (Continued)
School Governance & Parent Involvement
PA’s, Parent Coordinators, District Family Advocates, OFEA, CEC’s, PEP
4) Feb 2 D-6 District 6 Test Results; New NY State Graduation & Curricula Standards
Martha Madera DOE District 6 Community Superintendent
How Is The New York City School System Structured:
Schools, Districts, Network, Curricula, & Promotion Standards
CHOOSE ADVOCACY PROJECT --- OUTLINE GOALS & PLANS FOR PURSUING
(Suggestions: Developing your School’s Comprehensive Education Plan Or School Budget
Increasing & Sustaining Participation in School Leadership Team, PA, CEC
Strategies & Tactics For Being An Effective Parent Organizer – conducting meetings, role of government officials & media
Facilities Use of Your School Building – Capacity, Utilization, Footprint
5) Feb 9 ELL & Special Education Melanie Reyes NY Immigration Coalition
Patricia Connelly Special Education advocate
Percentage of students involved in each program; what programs are offered in District 6
Are services satisfactory in type, quantity, & quality; how might they be improved
6) Feb 16 Teaching, Testing, and Accountability
Shael Polakow-Suransky DOE Deputy Chancellor
Julie Cavanagh PS 15 Elementary School Teacher & Teacher and Parent Organizer
7) March 2 Charter Schools Recy Dunn, DOE Charter School Division
Mona David NYC Charter Parents Association
Charter Schools --- An answer to what? Goals & Realities
Representatives from local Charter schools and from the NYC Charter Parent Association
8) March 9 – Conflict Resolution Skills Lillian Castro Morningside Center for Teaching Social Responsibility
9) March 23 Perspectives on Creating Great Schools For All --- various views TBD
10) March 30 Presentation of Advocacy Projects Evaluation of Program; Distribution of Diplomas