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  • Writer's pictureBen Avey

Kids Deserve Partnership

Parenting requires partnership. Whether it’s with your family, neighbors, village, or tribe, every parent builds a network of people for whom they rely on to extend their own capabilities. Carpools, childcare, activities, and fellowship bring us together with a common cause.

At our local schools, we partner as well. PTO or PTA, School Site Council, field trip chaperones, and classroom volunteers (pre-COVID) are staples of our community. At the high school level, we have boosters, coaches, and parent coordinators embedded in myriad of activities. Academically, we hold individual conferences with teachers to assess progress and better understand how we can work together for our kid’s success.

Unfortunately, these partnerships don’t extend to the School Board. The School Board regularly seeks the opinion of unions, teachers, district staff, and even students – but rarely parents. In fact, for both unions and students, they have standing agenda items where these groups are free to make presentations, comment on policy, and publicly praise their good work. Parents, by and large, are relegated to two-minute “visitor comments” during which the board is prohibited from discussion.

To be fair, the district does have a legally required Local Control and Accountability Plan Parent Advisory Committee (LCAP PAC) who advises the School Board but whose recommendations have historically been ignored by district staff.

The district also has a Superintendents Parent Advisory Committee (SPAC), for which I am a member. SPAC meets with parents a few times a year. It is led by the Superintendent, but as a parent I have never found it meaningful in shaping district policies and the Superintendent’s reports to the board on our behalf are forgettable, at best. If often feels like the Superintendent and School Board are simply checking a box to say they spoke with parents.

It doesn’t have to be this way. There’s myriad of ways for the School Board to engage parents as their partners – their village – their tribe.

1. Create a School Board Parent Advisory Council (PAC). The Board PAC would be made up of parents elected to serve on School Site Councils, who will be charged with advising school board members directly. The PAC would elect their Chair to work with district staff to coordinate their meetings. School Site Councils are representative bodies mandated by state law that already have policies and procedures in place for membership, posting of agendas, and public comment. They offer valuable representation that should be empowered as a voice for parents. Alternatively, they could truly empower the LCAP PAC.

2. Host Monthly Community Listening Sessions. These sessions should be held at schools throughout the district where a Board Member, Superintendent, or member of the Superintendents Cabinet provides a brief update on the district and asks a few open-ended questions that allow people to express their unbridled opinion. Listening sessions notes should be shared with the School Board in their public meeting and included in the published board packet.

3. Allow real-time virtual public comment at school board meetings. Parents face significant barriers to personally attend school board meetings and should not be forced to do so when there are common technology solutions that reduce such hardships. Further, the recently implemented process which requires a person providing virtual public comment to register five hours in advance eliminates parents’ ability to respond to information provided verbally for the first time during the meeting. Currently, San Juan Unified School District public comment is more restrictive than that of the County Board of Supervisors, Sacramento County Office of Education, City of Sacramento, City of Citrus Heights, and SMUD Board of Directors.


These are just a few options that have been brought before the School Board to engage parents that until now appear to have been rejected, which is unfortunate.

If elected to represent you on the San Juan Unified School District Board of Education next November, I will champion these common-sense policies to engage parents. I understand the unique perspective parents bring to the conversation and the foundational role parents play in the lives of students.

Parents deserve to be equal partners in education. They are part of our educational village and our school tribe. Let’s empower them accordingly.

All the best,

Ben

P.S. If you agree that parents should be a partner in education, I could really use your support! Winning campaigns rely on financial contributions from people like you to help share our message. Please click here to make a donation in my secure giving website.

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