11.11.2011

Mrs. Thompson went to Washington



When I was asked to participate in Mom Congress in 2010 I had no idea that in November, 2011, I would be gathering as many delegates as possible for a mini "mid-term" session to meet with staff from the Department of Education as well as to sit in on ESEA (Elementary and Secondary Education Act) reauthorization hearings! For us, advocacy and volunteering are just a part of our regular day, but we know we can do more. So along with Melissa Bilash (PA '10), Felisa Hilbert (OK '11), Bren Martin (KY '11), Jerri Ann Reason (AL '11), and Windy Tuck (SC '11), and with a great new friend, Rachel Laiserin, we "Marched on Washington" to do our best to discover better ways to increase parental and family engagement in education.


Next stop "the hill"!


Thankfully the weather couldn't have been better, crisp and clear, perfect for a weekend getaway. Some of us arrived early so we could walk the mall and visit the museums and monuments. I've been to DC before, but never had a chance to really just explore. Had a great time at the Newseum and the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery (in fact I spent close to three hours at the NPG-as I said to a friend, there was a lot to see!). Fellow delegates Windy Tuck and Felisa Hilbert had a much more exciting day in DC as they found themselves outside the White House protesting an oil pipeline that will go through Felisa's state of Oklahoma. I'm sure those photos will be posted soon on the Mom Congress facebook page-but for a moment I thought "will I have enough to bail my moms out of jail?"

Sunday night we met with a young woman, Shree C. who as a former teacher and a self-described "education wonk" wants to create an avenue for the families in her community to become more engaged in education and to empower themselves to enact change. What was supposed to be a quick hour meet up in the lobby of  The Liason turned into a three hour brainstorming session! We spoke of community connectivity to education, how even if you don't have children in a school, because that school is part of your neighborhood you do have a responsibility to care about what is taking place. That with information comes insight, and with insight comes action. I look forward to helping Shree as she moves forward and am honored that she includes us in this process. 

Jerri Ann Reason outside the office


Is your city a Playful City USA? Louisville isn't...yet!

KaBOOM! What can I say about KaBOOM! that I haven't said a million times before on my facebook and twitter feeds? Without KaBOOM! there would probably not be a playground at my children's elementary school. Their online toolkit for how to enact change is incredible, and although it is specific for playground/recess advocacy, you can adapt it to other advocacy issues as well. And who wouldn't want to work in their office? A tire swing and a slide in the lobby? Foosball in the conference room? Signs that say "go play!" There is an energy and enthusiasm in this space that is contagious! Felisa Hilbert saw the Playful City USA map and how there wasn't a flag on the board for Oklahoma. Knowing Felisa there will be a flag on that map next year. 


Matthew was so helpful, answering questions about joint-usage agreements (where city and schools share the playground/play space making sure that it really does benefit the community), "play deserts" where you can find, based on census data, a lack of adequate playgrounds or open park spaces and how as play advocates we can bring that information to our city leadership to enact and transform our communities so ALL children have a place to play. I look forward to continuing my work with KaBOOM! and assisting on this project. 

Then it was off for a quick walk past the capitol to meet with Cathy McManus of Parenting magazine. She's the dorm mom of Mom Congress, nurturing all of us as we navigate our worlds of advocacy and engagement. We hope some of the input we were able to give about our Mom Congress experiences will help the next group (ladies, be on the look out for roommate option, for "down time in DC" and for a potential "meet and greet" with your elected leaders). Cathy and Stephanie are amazing and without Parenting there wouldn't be a Mom Congress. Mama Saxa!


ESEA what? I know, all the ed lingo is confusing to even me at times. And what does "authentic parent engagement" look like anyway? How do we connect the marginalized parent with education issues when they feel disconnected from education because of their own lack of an education, because of a cultural/language barrier, because they don't know their rights, because they are worried about food, shelter, clothing and just hope that for those 6 1/2 hours a day their child is being cared for and educated by people who have their child's best interests at heart. What was to be a one hour meeting with Carrie Jasper and Massie Ritsch turned into a 2 hour and 15 minute meeting as we talked about ESEA, STEM, gifted and talented, IEPs, IDEA, Title I, teacher layoffs, early childhood education, whole child...and there wasn't enough time to have all questions answered or concerns addressed. But instead of just telling the Dept. of Ed what's "wrong" we have to be willing to help communicate and collaborate on what is going "right." We are partners in this process, and if we are willing to point out where a communication breakdown has taken place we better be willing to be part of the solution and offer our assistance to bridge those gaps.

For a great summation of our conversation, check out Jerri Ann Reason's podcast, or read Kathryn Thompson's post on Parenting Magazine Mom Congress webpage. Pretty cool, eh?

To that end, we'll be back in DC in January for another meet with DOE staff, but we won't go empty handed. Stay tuned for those details soon. 

That evening we had a great time at Art and Soul with National PTAs Sherri Wilson (talking about Three for Me) and with Delia Troy of Volunteer Spot about, what else, helping families get more involved in education and more connected with their schools and community. Great conversation, great food, great friends. Who could ask for anything more?....

Me. I could. And did, the next day at the ESEA hearings..but you'll have to read about that in tomorrow's post. Today, it's Friday, Friday, Friday, oh! and sometimes us mom's have to focus on our own family first...besides, laundry doesn't magically do itself you know?

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