Advocacy: what comes to mind when you hear/see that?

At tonight’s inaugural Parent Advocacy Committee meeting, the one major action item is to go out and ask other people how they define “advocacy”. It is expected that we all have different mental images of this concept, different dictionary definitions. And since I blog, you are my lucky audience and in this case, participants.  Don’t worry, I know a number of you trollers so I’ll be dropping you a personal email in the near future to ask about this. 🙂 I am hoping that at least 20 of you make a comment below.

What is Advocacy?

For those that want to read the meeting documents first, you can skip down to the bottom of this post.

The first meeting, as you might expect, was a “sending out the feelers” kind of gathering. Tony Howard and Cheryl Camacho introduced themselves and how Dr. Wiegand charged them to essentially research what advocacy is and how the district can best implement it; this idea came out of the June 21st Board Retreat, along the lines of creating safe environments for discussion and empowering parents to become more involved. Both Tony and Cheryl have done a lot of planning and both are obviously very passionate about this topic. In fact, when listening to Mr. Howard introduced himself, it was a pleasant surprise to hear how involved in the community he is. I am reminded that people all around us are already doing amazing things and most of the time we simply do not know it. One thing in particular is that Mr. Howard will be hosting a Minority Parent Round Table for anyone that considers themselves a minority at the Champaign Public Library next Tuesday from 6:30 – 8:00 pm. It sounds like this will be a great listening event when staff from Edison will simply listen to what Edison parents have to say. He has hopes of doing something similar with a larger audience and at venues like the Douglass Branch Library (there was a conflict for this time around).

As other committee members introduced themselves and spoke about Read the rest of this entry »

Community Engagement: what does it look like?

This is a two-for-one post. I want to make a quick announcement that Majora Carter will be at the NCSA on Thursday. Just awesome stuff! More on this at the bottom of the post. Be there!

I have already talked about the fine work going on in the Springfield School District. I have decided to integrate that into my “platform” for tonight’s Candidate Forum (you will see that this is posted while I am being interviewed, and I have no electronic devices with me).

I spoke with a Springfield BOE Member, Scott McFarland, this afternoon. It is just so exciting to hear about what they are doing. The Faith Coalition for the Common Good continues to push forward; one of the many things to come out of the Education Summit is a Education Task Force Committee (cannot find a URL link, yet). One of the things that was really important to the SSD 186 was improving their website. As I mentioned previously, I was quite impressed with the website. I have recently learned that one of their employees, Dave Heinzel, is the man behind the curtains and largely responsible for the entire thing. He is an accomplished graphic artist and the website really shows off his skills quite well.

During our conversation, Mr. McFarland mentioned how FAITH working with SSD 186 procured a high school improvement grant which they used to build a special room dedicated to community collaboration, including holding classes for community members. It is a part of the initiative to use the building even after school is out, in the efforts of creating a community center. I love this idea!! Awesome stuff.

I was asking Mr. McFarland about his opinion of FACE (Family and Community Engagement), and a quote I am going to steal from him is “You have to have community buy-in before the Board pitches an idea.” How true, so very true. And this is a Board Member, keep in mind.

I also called the Springfield Administration Building and asked further questions. One more thing I learned is that FACE is essentially one coordinator (Peggy Cormeny) and her assistant. They have a “FACE team” at each school that either replaces or works along side PTOs (like our PTAs, kinda sorta). I am so envious. 🙂


And finally, back to Majora Carter. You have to go watch some of her videos (1,2). Here is someone with a passion for improving the lives of people around her, who is so overflowing that her sincerity and genuine concern drives her to push and push and push to get injustice eradicated. Her outlet is “environmental justice”, but that phrase means so much more than hugging trees.

New role model

Previously I mentioned a trip out to Springfield. In the last few days as I have attempted to define myself in preparation for the public Candidate Forums on April 16th, I have realized that many of my desires and goals coincidentally align with a very special department in the Springfield School District, Family and Community Engagement (F.A.C.E.).

The front page of FACE that greets you is not exactly the most impressive thing you can find on the internet. However, after digging around, I was very excited. Take for instance this quote from the “About” page:

“Springfield Public School District defines Family and Community Engagement as school, family & community partnerships built on trust and meaningful communication that creates strong academic support systems for all students.”

FACE has also  Read the rest of this entry »