5.25.2010

May, A Month in Review









Education round up, two weeks of review. Some good, some bad, but all of it meant parent engagement on my part! First, I know that some in Jeff. Co are shaking their heads wondering, what does the school audit mean? How will this impact my children, their teachers, and education in our schools as a whole. First, we know now that out of the six schools, two will lose their principals, and teachers will be replaced. The CJ has a breakdown at http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20100524/NEWS0105/5240308/1060/Special+Report+%7C+Can+120+new+teachers+lift+six+failing+Louisville+schools

I am proud of Tonya Mobley (PTSA President at Frost) and Bonnie Smith (PTSA President at Western Middle) for stepping up and engaging in the conversation about their schools. Tonya and others from Frost went to the standing room only school board meeting two weeks ago...two weeks. wow, time moves quickly. And what a two weeks it has been. So now what? Parents need to speak up about how they plan on being a part of the restructuring. Many students will lose favorite teachers as a result of this transition. Schools will have to refocus, perhaps heading academically in a new direction. Change will take place. So we need to be a part of those conversations so that our voices are heard and our children, whom the teachers, administrators, school board, superintendent actually work for, will be given what they need in educational opportunities.

Dr.Berman made a presentation at UL about the student diversity plan. It was adequately attended. Weather was no doubt a factor (remember the recent deluge of rain?) as well as time of day (hard to get parents there when most parents are working). But good questions were posed, particularly about transportation and the concept of community schools. At that time Dr. B announced that Westport was going to be transformed into a Montessori Middle School. This will no doubt please the parents and students at Kennedy and Coleridge Taylor, but may still not be enough to please those who have been frustrated these six long years with a school that has consistently failed to achieve it's AYP goals, has major pr problems and a negative reputation in the district, and although transforming parents may not want to be the "first" class to experience it's new direction. Again, CJ link http://www.courier-journal.com/article/20100524/NEWS0105/5240365/Westport-Frost-middle-schools-targeted-for-more-changes

Full Disclosure. I do not know the best direction for these schools. I don't have a degree in management. I don't have a degree in education. I know that some of the leadership at these schools has been lacking. For some time longer than the current time these Principals have spent in the schools. That they have tried to turn around the culture and climate of the school, and have perhaps met with community resistance, parent resistance, student resistance. That as a district, and as a PTA, we have not done enough to help. I don't like the label "failing" it implies that no one is doing anything of any value. Struggling certainly, falling short, absolutely, but failing? I do know that PARENTS need to be part of the solution and not targeted or scapegoated as the reason for the problem. Educating our children is a community effort. And if we work together, I know that great things will happen FOR OUR CHILDREN.

Later that afternoon, I attended the signing of a major community document, (http://www.louisvilleky.gov/Mayor/News/2010/5-13-10+Education+Commitment.htm)and (http://services.louisvilleky.gov/media/education/education_commitment.pdf) that focuses on getting kids to college. I heard Mayor Abramson present this to the board about a month ago, so I was eager to engage the 15th D. PTA in this work. An invitation arrived (thanks to Leadership Louisville Connector Devone Holt) and along with Jonah and Finn, we went to the Ali Center to attend the signing of the document. I will say that it is my goal to be part of the team that discusses connecting and communicating with parents about their essential and often pivitol role in helping their children attain a college degree. And while this Education Commitment has many community leaders/organizations poised to implement change, they somehow left the parents out of the planning stages of this conversation. Especially the parents of our prek/k/and elementary schools, where the decision to attend college is often made by a student when they are EIGHT YEARS OLD. See that photo at the top of this blog. That's my son Jonah. So far he knows that college is in his future, especially if he wants to run Metro Council, or beyond, someday. Jonah is eight. This means that out of the group of nine that went on this exciting "tour of Louisville govt." for their third grade field trip, at least 3 WILL NOT GO TO COLLEGE. What! So that is why it is crucial that parents are part of this community effort. I was fortunate enough to tell that to various educational leaders who were there representing our Universities and colleges, as well as to staff in the Mayor's office and certainly those in JCPS know about how passionate I am that parents be involved in committee work. Stay tuned.

Okay. So my list is lengthy. I have been to three high school graduations (Binet, Jeffersontown and Iroquois) presenting scholarships to students on behalf of the PTA at two. I have three more high school graduations to attend, tonight my sixth grader is recieving recognition for his straight As all year from Noe (!!!), tomorrow I go on an all day school wide field trip with my 3rd grader and his friends to the zoo, planning for Memphis (National PTA Convention), attended a school board meeting, watched another school board meeting (gotta love local access channel!), worked at CAP, had an awards banquet for the district, had verbal sparing match on local cj moms website about education, attended a Business First Tribute to the Working Women Luncheon, (yes, I WORK at being an engaged parent. Trust me, there are days when I would so like to quit and lie on a sandy beach somewhere, but knowing that unfortunately most of our coastal beaches are now covered in an oily sludge from the BP oil pipeline break, I might as well keep doing what I'm doing), videotaped a plug for iMOM mornings, took my third grader to meet a favorite author (Rick Riordan), attended a KY PIRC meeting, helped at a KY PTA student award's ceremony event, attended the grand opening of the LFPL Children's Area at the main branch...and all before the first cup of coffee of the morning...just kidding.

I do know this. While some are celebrating the fact that school gets out in four short days, and I too am looking forward to spending more time with my children, and some of their friends, their cousins, the cat...I also know that there is work to be done. That our Legisators are in Frankfort hashing out a budget, one that still impacts education in a negative way. That the Rttt application is due June 1, with no addition of Charter Schools (agree or disagree with charters, the application calls for it and without one we may not make the cut), since they are not on the agenda for the special session, and perhaps without the full commitment of the state since school districts can now opt out of supporting the application. That my friend Gwen (Mom Congress CT) is fighting to keep a SUCEEDING school from closing (that's a twist no one saw coming!), that Texas has adopted a new textbook that is anything short of stellar, that teachers in Arizona will be dismissed if they have too thick an accent especially if they are teaching ESL students, and the list goes on. So while we may take a hiatus from school, we cannot take a break from education. For if we do, if we close our eyes and rest, just for a moment, a change may take place that none of us expect or want. And instead of being proactive, we become reactive. "You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters are continually flowing in" Heraclitus. However, if you don't keep an eye on the river, you might step on a rock and slip and fall in getting soaked in the process. So keep your eye on the river, but know a change will take place.

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