It’s back to school season in Newark, and for some elementary and middle schools the 2016 school year is already set in motion. High schoolers are getting a few weeks reprieve and extra sleep time before they have to be engaged. Parents are excited to have their babies back in the learning environment and YES—out of the house!
I attended a back-to-school event at my son’s school last week, and was surrounded by parents who are eager to get involved. I am reminded that this is the time of year when parent involvement is at its peak.
But having been an active and engaged parent since my oldest son started day care in 1990, I longed for more than 10 to 12 parents at a school meeting. Half of a parent team of three children, who have and are currently attending three different high schools—private, magnet and charter—my hopeful spirit was always wishing.
Fast forward to today, and I can’t help but feel energized and motivated after attending the first-ever NJ Parent Summit held a few weeks ago. Parent leaders from across New Jersey attended the event, sharing stories of life and parenthood, networking, asking questions, and giving advice. A weekend long summit that I could only imagine being half as good as it actually was.
The class sessions and panel discussions ranged from ‘Your 30 Second Elevator Pitch,’ to the ‘Important Roles Men and Women Play as Parents’ to ‘Racism in Education’—all learning experiences for parents to use in advocating for their family’s education. My sphere of ‘seasoned’ advocates grew larger with each conversation.
While this event was attended mostly by charter school parents, my hope is that in the years to come we can increase involvement of all parents. My role as an NJBAEO parent advocate leader is to help all families in the city of Newark learn and grow in advocating for the best education possible for all children. For all children to receive the highest quality education, we need to make sure parents are engaged in all of our schools.
After the great weekend at the NJ Parent Summit, and now with recently announced plans of local control returning to Newark schools, I arrive back home with a renewed sense of commitment and encouragement. Connecting with Newark school communities in an open education conversation is vital if we are going to have a collective impact in making sure all Newark students are truly excelling and succeeding in school.