What we haven’t done is to figure out how to not just engage but to empower the people whose children are being impacted by the work we do.
-Dr. Howard Fuller
Parents, regardless of their financial situation or social status, want the best for their children, particularly when it comes to education. They also want to help their children at home with homework and projects. I know personally that, as a parent, these actions are part of a bigger picture that means navigating a parent’s work schedule, family life, and social life.
Educators, administrators, and district leaders need to meet parents where they are, in order to invite the partnership and assistance of parents and families. The74 recently published an article on ways to engage parents. That list has merit but leaves out some key points. Built on my past experiences with advocating for children and the relationships with other parents, here are five ways to make a school’s relationship with parents smoother, and more empowering:
- Joint Ventures: Parents have some very astute and practical ideas that can be further developed with the right partnership bringing families and schools together. Many of these ideas would foster a greater relationship within the circle of education and would strengthen the idea of working for our children from school to home and back. Joint ventures between educators and parents builds trust.
- In-School Activities: Setting aside a dedicated time within school hours, where the partner relationship of parent and teacher is reinforced to the students for their progressive development, is not only a great idea but should be mandatory. Our children live in a fast-paced society where human interaction is almost incidental. Sure I can text you, email you, and call you, but it won’t be as effective as a face to face meeting. Imagine a period of time during school where parents are welcomed to engage and communicate about what we want to accomplish with our children, thus modeling the kind of interactions we hope to see in the real world. Texting, emailing and calls at times have to be translated. In person, I can look someone in their eyes and experience their emotions.
- Direct Support: The saying, “Put your money where your mouth is”, isn’t just a saying.. There are many groups of parents who are organized and organizing, but need financial support to realize their big ideas and act on them. There is no better way to engage families than to leverage the genuine and authentic help of another family. I’m not talking about selecting a few parents to be on a panel or a board. Schools should provide real resources so that a group of dedicated parents can go out and rally other parents, not just in quantity, but quality. Parents inspire other parents and a little financial help to organize wouldn’t hurt along the way.
- ‘Iron Sharpens Iron’: I have been through two parent training cohorts and sat on numerous panels. I have taken flights to engage with other parents, and I continue to engage citizens of my community about educational outcomes in my city. I believe I am qualified to train other parents to do this work. Many nonprofits that run parent leadership training in my city have not followed through on their commitments to those parents. If you want to successfully engage parents, support capable parents with the tools they need to train other parents, making that engagement far less cumbersome. Because parents believe in other parents and trust they will train them right, stay engaged, and then institute healthy relationships with education officials.
- Accessibility: This last point comes from a fellow parent and devoted colleague in the journey to attain a great education for all of our kids. Benita Cochran is a parent first, and she offers her advice for true family engagement, “Ease of access to information. Incorporating different methods to allow parent feedback at meetings when they are unable to attend, like video /Skype/ Facebook live. Doing a Saturday board meeting so parents can attend. I know if these things were considered as options more parents would be involved. I think many can’t, because they are working.”
What I am describing is feet on the ground, roll up your sleeves work. If you want to know what parents need, make the effort, and come to the source! This can be accomplished and is within reach. Let’s come together, engage, empower and then move forward. The future of our children literally depends upon our ability, as adults, to do this.
Truth be told, I’m rooting for the migrant caravan that is making its way to the U.S. border in defiance of our country’s administration and border policies. I feel like I’m cheering on the underdog team in the World Cup or the Resistance in Star Wars. There is something critical about these seemingly small battles that ultimately weaken the empire. I am enjoying the challenge it presents because it offers another opportunity for a moment of reckoning for our country. The caravan builds upon the momentum of #MarchforOurLives while we also continue to strengthen our alliances across social movements. We are beginning to see exactly what the caravan has in common with the Black Lives Matter movement and what we all have in common with the #WontBeErased and #MeToo campaigns. In other words, we can see what’s really at stake.
Namely, we are being asked to explore deep questions about who we are as a country and the promises we make about opportunities. These are questions that always have been beneath the surface of our dialogue, but we are now in a time where we are raising these truths and demanding a more honest conversation.
The caravan and all of these movements ask us to look at our history. In reading one article, I couldn’t help but scoff at the headline, which asserted that the caravan is a “Challenge to the Integrity of U.S. Borders.” The word “integrity” was an oxymoron in light of the U.S.’s history of stealing the land from Mexico. Where was the integrity when Congress passed a substitute protocol to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo that required Mexicans to prove in U.S. courts that they had ‘legitimate’ title to their own lands? Any authentic discussion of our border security must acknowledge our history of theft and imperialism in the Americas. Otherwise, we continue to perpetuate the same dynamic of violence and oppression.
We also know that to look at the history would also bring to light another painful question – how does our history live on in our political systems? For example, if we acknowledge the history of genocide, or slavery, or the use of racist ideologies to set our immigration policy, we might also have to acknowledge the thread of continuing damage and take responsibility for it. In the case of immigration, the system itself was used to construct and maintain wealth and privilege based on whether one would be classified as white. One of the first major pieces of immigration legislation, The Johnson Reed Immigration Act of 1924, set restrictive quotas on immigrants from Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
Yet, in the immigration debate, we often hear the phrase “rule of law.” Anti-immigration advocates assert that immigrants aren’t following or respecting the law. What they do not acknowledge is that the laws themselves are rooted in racist ideologies. In the time of Jim Crow, many moderates also wanted black Americans to respect the “rule of law.” Now, the Central American immigrants are reminding us to question the laws and the systems themselves. This is exactly the message of all of our movements. Earlier this year, the detention of children weakened our trust in the immigration system. The deaths of Eric Garner and Sandra Bland weakened our trust in the justice system. The appointment of Brett Kavanaugh—despite Dr. Ford’s testimony of sexual assault—has weakened our trust in our social values. While many U.S. citizens want to hold tightly to their fantasies of fairness, these movements are creating a chorus of voices that are becoming harder and harder to drown out. They are demanding that we change our systems.
Moreover, in a time of globalism, I find it very exciting that the newest challenge is coming from non-U.S. residents. Just as our own neighborhoods in the U.S. are marked by tremendous amounts of segregation and economic disparity, our relationship with Mexico reflects the same issues on a larger scale. They are our neighbors too, and until we truly begin to see the ways we are interconnected, we will all suffer from the consequences of violence and disparity. We have created the conditions for poverty and violence in Central America through our imperialism, investment in war, and trade policies, and as a result, we see the proliferation of gun violence and drug epidemics in our own communities. Until we recognize that we are all in this together, we will continue to harm ourselves. We will continue to see the impact of our own narrow-mindedness, fear, and greed.
With each step towards the United States, these marchers are challenging the United States. But contrary to some claims, they are not challenging our “integrity,” but our lack thereof. They are challenging us to face the gap between who we purport to be and who we actually are. With so many movements gaining traction, we truly are in a defining moment for us as a nation. We will have to decide whether we will continue to attempt to deny and bury the country’s wretched history with even greater force and oppression. Or will we face it, as these movements are asking us to, in the hopes that facing the violence will begin the process of reconciliation and healing. Either way, one thing is clear. Everyone is watching; because what we choose is going to impact not just Mexico and Central America, but the entire world.
Black Women can change the world, which means we can change elections outcomes too. With that power comes significant responsibility, and we should take that work seriously as the election of 2018 approaches.
Since the conceptualization of this country, black women have played an important role in every major American milestone. We have allowed the strength of the nation to be built on our endurance without regard to our aptitude, and now is time for us to stand in the fullness of our power.
The beauty of maneuvering as a black female is diluted by the disenfranchisement that exists in both our political process, and in the political and private policies that work to diminish our voices. The policies that cause us to not live our full lives were created, and continue to be sustained, by people and entities that do not see us as full human beings.
If we are ever going to change those policies, we must first throw out the policymakers.
But we have a tricky relationship with the one party that sometimes does our bidding. The Democratic party calls on us, Black Women, to provide solutions to the issues concerning all the American populous. They rely on our votes to get into, and stay in, office. We do this service for the party, but in return,, we rarely see real solutions for the issues that directly affect us and our families.
Often times, the specific issues that make it difficult to navigate society in a black feminine body are not bifurcated from our white female counterparts. This creates a false narrative that we are being acknowledged and heard. As Black Women, We have a duality to overcome..our race and our gender.
The history of Black women in America is one of power, juxtaposed with constant disenfranchisement. The ratification of the Constitution granted discretion to individual states on how to qualify voters. When the south lost the Civil War, three Reconstruction Amendments were ratified and limited this discretion. The 13th and 14th amendments abolished slavery and granted citizenship respectively. The Fifteenth Amendment (1870) provides the right to vote regardless of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”After extensive advocacy, white women were granted the right to vote on May 19, 1919. The suffrage movement disregarded Jim Crow laws ruling the South, not to mention the incessant intimidation and economic disparities that the black women who marched with them faced. It wasn’t until the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed that black women could finally participate in the electoral process.
The reason that dissenters spent so much time and effort preventing the black female community from voting and continue to create systems that make voting difficult is because they know how powerful our vote is. According to the Washington Post, in 2008 and 2012, black women voted at a higher rate than any other group. Four years ago, 74 percent of eligible black women went to the polls — and 96 percent voted for President Obama.
We have a duty not only to our children and community, we have a duty to ourselves. We have a right to live not only within the freedom that is granted to us by the Constitution, we have a right to live within the freedom granted by our mere existence. Our power is real, because our voting power will change the world. We can talk about getting free; but nothing will change until we vote.
On a bathroom stall a racially charged note was found. The note suggested that black students were, “taking over the school.” Then, the most striking and violent part, just two words: “shoot em.”
The school is Metairie Park Country Day. Country Day is a predominately white private school in Metairie, Louisiana, a suburb of New Orleans. Making matters worse, the school’s headmaster, Matt Neely, didn’t cancel school on that day. He didn’t even notify parents until the week after the incident happened. School leaders found the note on a Friday early in the day, and students remained in school although a threat was made.
“I should have been notified on Friday and if (headmaster Matt Neely) didn’t want to cancel school, the decision should have been left up to me whether I wanted to remove my child from school,” said Dr. Karen Paul, a Country Day School alumna and parent of a biracial child at the school. “What if something horrible happened?”
The Country Day Parents were kept in the dark about the incident until after the school officials met with students, meaning the decision to talk to children, not of legal age, about a threat at a school was made without their parents being present. The school and the administrators seem to want to protect themselves before protecting students in the building. We, as a community, are thankful that nothing happened. But in today’s atmosphere of active shooters, I believe more caution was warranted
This incident is just the latest in my metropolitan area, of actions that put the well-being of our children at risk. From teachers sexually assaulting students and pursuing relationships with students, to administrations refusing to educate students because of the way their hair is styled, just to name a few.
While we fail to protect our kids from actual threats, we keep punishing them for completely arbitrary reasons. Nationally, we have seen Black children punished for the style of their hair. We have seen former students shoot up schools and police officers assigned to protect the students in that school. The countless number of bomb threats schools get on a consistent basis. School resource officers who have used excessive force against children in schools and young children put in handcuffs to subdue them at school. These are just a few examples of the unsafe, pushy actions becoming of a bully that has been displayed in some of our schools in recent years. Sadly, this is only a summary and a mere snapshot of what happens in some of our schools today.
Maybe I’m old fashioned, delusional, or a dreamer, but I remember the schoolhouse being a safe place of refuge, rebuilding, and rejuvenation. I remember looking forward to seeing my principal, teachers, cafeteria lady and janitor. My school was full of adults who poured into our lives to make us better. The only evacuations I remember were fire drills. Oh sure we had disagreements, discipline, and a fight or two, but those things happened then we moved on. We ribbed and played the dozens, but truthfully it made us tougher and life continued to happen. I simply remember school being truly a safe space.
I pray that we could find our way back to this again. For the sake of our kids and generations to come. In the case of this note found at Country Day, I pray that it was a hoax and foolish actions by a wayward kid who needs to be scolded and reprimanded the old-fashioned way. As to the administrators at Metairie Park Country Day and administrators at schools across our nation, I sincerely wish that you all begin to see the mistakes in some of your actions and make a valiant effort to rectify your home to school action plan. Parents are not on a need to know basis. They always need to know! Make school safe again.
Voting isn’t just a thing we do, it’s a story we tell and pass on through the generations. Stories of how this right was secured and why it is to be cherished and protected by being used. With early voting upon us, this video tells just a few of those stories. Please, get out and vote!
By: The Parent “Advocators”
Thirteen years after Hurricane Katrina and 100 days since the unification of all schools returning to the governing of Orleans Parish School Board, we are still having conversations about how to make schools better.
It’s truly heartbreaking as parents to hear about and witness certain situations happening on a daily basis in education. Before we, The Parent “Advocators” continue, we would like to drop this disclaimer right now. If you can’t handle the truth being told about what is really going on in our schools, are you truly open to making a change in education?!!!
How can schools that are failing our kids improve? The answer to this question rarely has time to develop. Conversations and panels are held, but more times than not there is rarely a solution found. It is not discussed due to time restraints, parent/community involvement, and too many people that are present for reasons other than our children. In this educational arena, many people have their own agendas at the expense of our children and families. So, it leaves us to question when the solution will actually be discussed and when will the right people be invited to the discussion table.
On Wednesday, October 3rd, The Parent “Advocators” was part of a panel “The State of Charter Schools in New Orleans.” What was depressing were the number of people that weren’t in attendance. Many complain about charter schools and schools as a whole in New Orleans, so “Where were you?” The venue should have been standing room only.
Don’t get us wrong; Panels and community discussions are great and we support them, but we feel it’s time to change things up and allow those most affected by this system to be heard. It’s time to allow those whom we are making the decisions for speak on their own behalf. Leaders need to step back, take a seat, and open their ears to who they’re truly impacting and the effect it is having and the changes that need to be made. Why not allow a different set of voices to be heard?
The different voices that we need at the table are our scholars and families. 2018 is a time for change and togetherness. We should all be asking ourselves, “Who else is there to help bring this change? Who would bring value to these education conversations?” With change and solutions comes being open to hearing from those who have the knowledge on how to make it happen and those living the situations daily. Authenticity and realness is what’s needed in today’s educationally landscape. We speak on behalf of our scholars and families as if they can’t speak for themselves. When changes are made that don’t necessarily benefit them and they challenge the leaders, we want to deem it disrespectful or an interruption. If they were allowed the platform and opportunity to have a voice to speak beforehand then it wouldn’t be such a divide and definitely TRUST would return to education.
STOP making demands, choices, and changes unless you’re willing to hear from those that feel it the most. Until these factors are worked on, there will still be a disconnect and a divide. This needs to be addressed now! It must be worked on today and fixed yesterday so that situations will be resolved. Our children don’t have to time waste.
There is one more aspect that must be addressed if we are really going to change how we operate in education. Certain people lately have been on social media calling out OPSB, CEOs, community leaders, and advocates. Now keep in mind, those same folks are the ones that show up only when cameras are rolling and those leaders are in the building, but they aren’t truly making an impact themselves. They’re showing up not to do something productive but to be seen. Please stop pretending to care when it’s a benefit to you or your BRAND. Our children don’t need BRANDS they need advocates and solutions. Stop calling out others when you yourself aren’t making a mark in becoming a change maker. Help with fixing the problem instead of creating new issues. False stories and make believe won’t allow our Scholars to become GREAT! STOP THE FOOLERY!
There are some great changes and positive steps being made to improve education in New Orleans. We would like to applaud Mayor Cantrell on understanding the need for not just leaders in education to support our scholars and families but also understanding it takes ALL of us working together and supporting families to assure their SUCCESS.
We acknowledge Orleans Parish School Boards for all of the improvements that have been made thus far to improve education in New Orleans. We have transitioned into the Unification process with the 100th day being marked on Tuesday, October 9th with a press conference of the days ahead. We acknowledge those Charter organizations that are exceeding in leading our Children to a high-quality education.
As a community, we have to learn how to work together and how to empower and support each other. Stop making divides. It doesn’t have to be us against them. Do this for our kids and be real with yourselves. This job is hard work, and requires long hours with minimal pay. But, it can be done.Voices have power.
People like the mayor, community leaders, parents, educators are just some of the people ,we, The Parent “Advocators,” feel is needed to start the conversation to come to a real solution. Now, let’s see if these parties are willing to step up and make it happen. The ball is in YOUR court. The challenge is on!
Here’s how to reach us to get the conversation started
How do you feel about the Trump Administration? If my assumptions are correct, you probably wish they would fall off into some unknown part of the universe, never to be heard from again. And while that sounds like nirvana for us anti-Trump advocates, it probably won’t happen anytime soon. So instead of wishing this insensible administration away, let’s rally together and silence them by using the most powerful weapon we have in our arsenal – our VOTE.
The midterm elections will be staring us in the face shortly, and the outcome is pivotal. Our votes in this election directly determine which political party (Democrats or Republicans) will control Congress for the next two years. Remember what happened when we brushed off the 2016 presidential campaign believing America was too perspicacious to put a narcissistic con artist in the White House? That epic fail alone should definitely motivate you to vote. But if for some strange reason it doesn’t, then maybe shutting the Republican party and their warped beliefs down or just simply googling Trump’s name moves you to cast your ballot. And if neither of those actions impels you, then below are five more reasons why it’s imperative that every black person vote on November 6th.
- People Died for Our Right to Vote – Our ancestors shed blood and lost their lives for having the audacity to want to use their voice in regards to political decisions that affected their lives. Remember the four little black girls who died in the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham, AL? They died as a result of our people taking a stand for our rights. The 16th Street Baptist Church was used as a meeting place for Civil Rights Leaders to gather and devise plans on getting black people registered to vote in addition to solving other issues blacks faced. Because it was a rallying place for our people, the church was bombed by white supremacists resulting in the death of those four little black girls. The demise of these little girls, though extremely significant, is only a fraction of the lives that were lost as a result of our people fighting for us to have a voice. If this part of our history doesn’t make you run to the polls every time they are open, you may need to check your gratitude levels.
- To Exercise Our Right – We are full, tax-paying citizens of the United States of America. Our ancestors toiled tirelessly in fields building this country. As derivatives of our hard working kindred and as citizens of this country, it is our earned right to be heard. At one time in this country, we had no say-so in any matters regarding our lives. Our forefathers and mothers fought long and hard for us to have a voice. It’s honorable that we utilize the power they fought so hard to get. Voting is not only a way of exercising our right; it’s also a way of praising our ancestors’ efforts and ensuring that their hard work is not in vain.
- We Should Control Our Own Destiny – Our lives depend on whether or not we show up to the polls. When we don’t vote, we give the “good ole boys” the ultimate control they long to have over our lives. Not voting grants them ongoing permission to decide which laws we will abide by, the type of healthcare we receive, what opportunities we can have, how the justice system affects us, etc. If we don’t use our votes to put the politicians in place who have our best interests at heart, then we are basically leaving our destiny in the enemy’s hands.
- To Show We Are Equal – Every ethnicity may not be on the same playing field when it comes to opportunities, education, or finances. However, when it comes to voting – we are all equal. Our votes have no color or economic status. Our vote is just as efficacious as a homeless person’s vote or an affluent politician’s vote.
- Set Examples for the Youth – It’s vital that we lead by example and show our children that their voice matters when it comes to their well-being. They must know that they are not obligated to live in a world where decisions are made without their consent. We should teach them change is possible through activism and utilizing their right to vote. If we can’t think of any other reason to vote, our children’s future should be enough.
It’s a fact that the voting system was not constructed with black people in mind, but when we refuse to be silenced and show up in droves every time the polls open, we will make an impact. Do your part on November 6th by running to the polls and casting your vote. Our lives depend on it.
Lee Green, Head of School at Andrew H. Wilson, is an honest straight shooter. He’s a true educator who has adults walking around saying, “I remember Mr. Green. He was a great teacher.” Green is a tenured and experienced teacher of over twenty years and a great citizen of our beloved New Orleans. He gave to young minds before Katrina and has weathered the storm to remain a fixture in the future of our young children to come. Mr. Green has traveled the world, authored books, and developed other great educators as well.
It was with great appreciation that I was able to receive a few significant words from such an individual with so much vast knowledge to share. Mr. Green usually says, “I don’t do adults.” What he really means is he doesn’t get into the back and forth that at times comes from having conversations with other grown folks. His “I don’t do adults” is deeply rooted in him using his time progressively to move the educational outcomes of his students consistently forward. Mr. Green is intentional about educating children and no excuses from parents, fellow educators or administrators will deter that.
“The number one variable in schools are teachers”
Mr. Green is confident and convinced that teachers teaching students and getting back to the basics is the game plan and should be the strategy moving forward in a city that has the most charter schools. Mr. Green exclaims, “With the budget out there the focus has to be on how do educators put things together for our children and make sure these kids get the best. “Somebody has to teach.”
“The most important people are the students”
As a parent who advocates for better education this is about kids to me and it’s should be to you as well. If you’re in the sphere of education for anything else, you should get out now. If personally you feel you’re scared or not dedicated, then say it and bow out gracefully.
“Stop playing games with our children. You know how I feel about that,” a statement centered around the state of charter schools in New Orleans by Mr. Green.
Chris Stewart of the Wayfinder Foundation recent statement about the New Orleans school system is honest and true, “It’s gonna get messy.”
Which means we need all hands on deck to transform these children’s lives and to transform a school system. Yes, the children are the most important people in the school building and our efforts should and must be focused on them. As educators, you all must carry the same sentiments and vigor to transform our children with you everyday. As parents we should be your allies, but also let you know that anything less than complete commitment is unnecessary and won’t be tolerated. What is the state of charter schools in New Orleans? It’s still a work in progress and I’ll keep you posted!