The parent is the child’s first teacher. You don’t have to search very far to find countless variations of that statement; just type it into Google or Bing.  However, it is the next step in the parents’ role that we have not addressed frequently enough:

Parents are also the primary advocates for their children’s education.

I can vouch for that statement based on my experience as a parent, a grandparent and an educational professional for many years.

That’s why I’m excited about “Parent Connections,” NJSBA’s initiative being launched this week.  It represents a major goal for us…and a logical one: School boards and parents form a natural alliance.

We have set out to establish at least six school district-based parent advocacy groups statewide by the end of this school year.  And we are well on our way.  Already, Ray Pinney, NJSBA’s director of training and member engagement, and I have met with two local school district parent advocacy groups—in Morris and Ocean counties—as well as with the state PTA’s  Presidents’ Council.  And at Saturday’s Delegate Assembly, following a presentation on our new “Parent Connections” webpage, more than 50 school board members requested that NJSBA staff visit their districts to meet with parent groups—PTAs, PTOs and similar organizations.

Clearly, the level of interest is very high, and we have made a commitment to respond to requests for meetings over the next few months.

To support our Parent Advocacy efforts, NJSBA has established a special “Parent Connections” portal on its website, which can be accessed at http://www.njsba.org/news-information/parent-connections/.

I invite you to visit this webpage, which includes video interviews and brief reader-friendly articles on educational issues before the state legislature, how schools are funded (e.g., property taxes versus state aid), and how school districts operate.  For example, do parents in your district know why they should address a concern first with the school principal and then the central office administration, rather than with a board member?  They can find the answer in an interview with a Monmouth County PTA official. There is also information on the conduct of board meetings (e.g., public comment sessions and open and closed sessions), and the role of the board versus that of the administration.

“Parent Connections” includes an interactive feature, which enables parents and other visitors to submit questions on legislative issues, school board policies, and district operations.  Questioners will receive direct responses, and the answers will also be compiled and posted on the site.

As I completed visits to all 21 of the state’s county school boards associations, I heard a common concern among board members.  It involves the erosion of local authority. That’s disturbing because I sincerely believe that the best decisions for children are made at the local level and a well-trained board of education can have a direct, positive impact on student achievement.

“Parent Connections” is a powerful tool that will engage a natural ally in NJSBA’s advocacy to maintain strong public schools and advance the achievement of all students, while building future leadership at the local school board level.

These are my Reflections. I look forward to hearing yours. Contact me at feinsodreflections@njsba.org.

 

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