Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Family and community engagement: less is more

Would you like to go to a meeting? Because, man, do we have them this week. Tonight, tomorrow night, and Thursday night are full of meetings and hearings related to the Achievement First Mayoral Academies charter school application that's been submitted to RIDE. Tonight, there's a Providence City Council education subcommittee hearing at 5:30 at City Hall (more info here). Tomorrow and Thursday night, the Rhode Island Board of Regents is holding hearings in Providence, tomorrow at 6pm at Kennedy Elementary School, Thursday at 6pm at Alvarez High School (more info, respectively aligned along some sort of spectrum here, here, and here). And that's just what's happening in Providence related to this one particular topic.

In Providence, it's also Open Schools Week for elementary schools, which means that families interested in public elementary schools are likely taking time off work or away from other responsibilities to visit schools. I'm spending evenings and lunch hours getting ready for and giving tours of MLK Elementary, where my kids go to school. This is great! But again, this week? With everything else? Too much.

Read on for schedule-related bitching and moaning, if that's your pleasure...

While I'd be way crankier if there were no hearings or publicly available information, I am sufficiently cranky with all of this happening immediately, right now, one after the other, especially since there is no actual rush as far as I am aware. As Tom Hoffman points out, the deadline for charter applications is four months away. There's ample time for various public entities to schedule hearings in ways that allow families with kids (or any of you out there who may work evenings or just otherwise have plenty going on) to plan to attend. After a strenuous bout of childcare wrangling, I think I'll be able to attend tomorrow night's Regents' hearing at Kennedy but that's it. And I am blessed with a daytime job, fairly easy kids, a car, and a spouse who supports my desire to participate. 

Generally, I regard myself as a fortunate person, especially when it comes to being able to be involved with the schools in my community. Though I work full time, I have enough control over my time to be able to spend time in schools. I have been able to form meaningful relationships with other family members, staff members, students, and administrators. I feel like I am able to contribute to conversations about what's happening in education in Providence and beyond in a variety of ways - in conversations, in public forums, on this blog, in my East Side Monthly column, and in my professional life. And as a member of the dominant culture who speaks English and feels happy and at home in school settings, I am well aware of my privilege and access, and happy to use some of it to ask that we think about ways to schedule hearings and opportunities for family and community involvement that support that involvement. 

When possible, I hope that the various towns involved with this proposal, along with RIDE, communicate with each other about when hearings are happening, and try to make sure they don't happen on weeks when there are other big district-wide events such as Open Schools Week. I have no expectation that all of us can attend everything, but this week's event pile-up is way beyond possible for most regular folks. 

In order to have consistent, inclusive family and community involvement, we really need better planning. Too many events, while better than too few, create their own frustrations that could be avoided by better planning. Moving forward, let's look at the various demands on folks' time and try to schedule them in ways that are possible for the largest possible group of people. 

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. Actually, we're down to three months until the charter application deadline at this point.