When Something Isn’t Right With Your Children’s School, How Do You Fix It?
There is a beauty in the realization that something isn’t right with education in your community. Also, I have never been one to shine light on a situation without engaging and offering a solution. For many of us in the New Orleans community, the post-Katrina education environment has acted as a catalyst to catapult many of us into larger roles within our community. The door to these roles was opened by parenthood and we walked through the door to fight for the best for our children as advocates. I have always been active in my children’s lives from extracurricular activities to education, but two years ago in early 2015 an incident that occurred at my daughter’s school has changed my thoughts and actions toward the educational outcomes for every child in New Orleans.
It was the all too familiar occurrence in our city – close a school doors completely or to give it to another CMO (Charter Management Operator). This situation has riddled the children of our city with displacement, uncertainty, and inconsistencies. This charter surge in New Orleans has clearly hurt their development. We, as parents of Andrew H. Wilson, were thrust into a situation that would affect our children’s future, so we decided we would be an intricate part of this process that was about to change our children’s education. Little did we know it would have bigger implications on education in our city as a whole.
There is a saying that “power concedes nothing without a demand” and we began the process of demanding to be involved in this school transfer process. No parents had ever attempted to be part of the decision process surrounding a school takeover, but we were determined. We came together on our own after work and came up with a game plan. I personally believe the success of our mission was enhanced because of how we did it. We were adamant and unrelenting yet professional and mannerable in our request to be involved and we stayed informed about decisions surrounding the transfer process. The Wilson Parents wanted in.
Needless to say, we got in, but bragging rights weren’t warranted yet; the real work was about to begin. What it did was change the face and structure of decision making in public education throughout our city for every child and family. It also established a blueprint for a dynamic, school, parent and community partnership. Wilson parents were successful in choosing the operator we felt had the best overall fit to move the school forward. That operator was InspireNola charter schools. From the start, a partnership blossomed and the solutions started to flow from both sides of the aisle.
The nonchalant culture of the school needed to change and it was changed with students and parents involvement in the process. The adults in the building who didn’t necessarily have our children’s best interest at heart were gone from the building which made way for teachers who were vested in our children’s ability and future. The community partnerships were reevaluated and commitment from those stakeholders who helped the students and families of Wilson were reestablished. The school building was painted, floor shined, new landscaping and walls adorned with positive reinforcement because we all know image is everything and the better the appearance the better the success level.
A solid foundation was formed between home and school. A commitment to rapidly and aggressively changing the education levels of our children was pushed. After school tutoring, Saturday class and summer school employed. When I tell you it paid off, I mean it paid off. In the first year of the transfer, Andrew’s H. Wilson improved its letter grade from an F to a C. Our children also improved their Leap test scores by 29 points. In addition to those amazing gains, an organization (who many said wouldn’t want to touch turnaround work) brought their winning formula and began a journey down a road of providing high-quality education to more students. Also, the parents of Andrew H. Wilson established a precedent for parents showing up and positively showing out for their kids; we were an advocating dream team. The Parent Advocators have since partnered with RSD (Recovery School District), OPSB (Orleans Parish School Board) and have helped parents like those of McDonough 42 and many more establish their voice when speaking out for their children. Together we will face many problems, but together is where we will find the solutions.