1.It is difficult
to question the idea of parental involvement. In fact to do so is to risk being
politically incorrect. Parents and educators should be allies. Both groups have the
same goal--to improve student, achievement. There is ample research to show that when
parents are involved in the education of their children, those children tend to do better
in school. Often they do much better. It is also true that involved parents tend to be
supporters of excess levy referendum levies. They are not likely to send their kids to
non-public schools. Involving parents has to be a good idea, right? Sometimes.
It is easy to make a leap of logic from the research which
indicates a direct correlation between involved parents and increased student achievement
to believe that parents should be decision makers in the educational process. Parents
should be involved in the education of their kids. They should help them select classes.
They should monitor and assist with homework. They should attend school activities.
Parents should take part in the PTSA and know what is happening in the schools their kids
attend. They should vote in school board elections and attend school board meetings. They
should work to support programs which benefit kids.
2.Parent involvement can become a problem when parents begin
to feel that they should have the ability to determine programs or run schools. I am
aware of instances in the state, if not the district, where parents have virtually taken
over site councils insisting on changes in the program or curriculum which they were sure
would benefit kids, particularly their kids. In just a few years these same parents have
moved on to other schools leaving behind the impact of their ideas.
Recently our school board made a decision to allow parents to
choose whether their fifth graders would go to a middle or elementary school. 3.I'm not
trying to criticize the decision. Parents were threatening to send kids to non-public
schools or other districts. The school board is correct in seeking to keep kids in our
school district. However, we should not forget that this decision may affect programs
which are already in place and working. Questions are raised. Will middle schools now be
able to maintain specialists? Will middle school student programs be reduced? Do
elementary schools have adequate space? Will elementary specialists lose their rooms? Will
the overall quality of education for students in grades five through eight actually be
improved? I don't have the answers. Does anyone?
I feel that we have excellent programs at all of our schools.
I've spent some time in our middle schools and elementary schools. I am proud of what our
educators are doing. 4.I think that fifth graders would be well served at either level.
The fact of the matter is however, that a decision had been made to have 5-8 schools at
Woodland and Ordean. Programs were established to provide good experiences for the
students. Teachers have worked hard. Administrators have worked hard. Many parents have
worked hard. Kids are doing well. Now a decision has been made which may well have a
negative effect on what has been accomplished.
Again, I'm not trying to be critical of the school board. They
are attempting to meet the needs and desires of many diverse groups. They are trying to
keep kids in the district. Yet, what may now seem to be an expedient decision may prove to
be problematic. 5.One parent described herself as a "fifth grade parent." Now
normally one is only the parent of a particular fifth grader for one year. Will she feel
differently as a sixth grade parent? Will she be disappointed that some opportunities have
been lost due to a reduction in enrollment at the middle school? Having achieved success
in changing the fifth grade configuration will she and others seek the opportunity to have
ninth graders stay in middle schools? Will another group of parents send their kids
elsewhere because the school district cannot seem to ever make up its mind? I don't
I do know that with ever changing grade con-figuration it is very
difficult to create a middle school program and negotiate what should constitute a middle
school day. I do know that until we, meaning the big "we" of the entire
district, can settle in on what educators are confident is a good middle program
(including grade configuration) and stick with it, the public will have reason to doubt. I
do know that we will not be able to please all parents I am still not sure what is wrong
with either Ordean or Woodland. I've taught at both. I lived in the Ordean district for
over twenty years. 6.My own kids went there. They did well. They had a good
experience. Many of my friends have had kids attend both schools in recent years. Positive
comments from them far out number negative, 7.I would much rather that instead of
having parents tell the school district what is wrong with these schools, that the
district do a better job of showing the parents what is right. Remember also, that we
are all a part of the school district. We all need to be positive about the program at our
school and other schools. Let us then show parents ways in which they may be involved in
the education of their kids and ways in which they can support the schools which their
Frank Wanner President