Parent Advocacy

I was forwarded a clip from Samatha Carter’s Facebook page which rings a chord with me – this Parent Advocacy Group sounds like it might be an excellent opportunity for some deep conversations and exploring ways to impact our community.


I am so inspired listening to Mrs. Patricia Avery speak at Unit 4 Pipeline to prison/ Social justice seminar. Tonight we talked about how much power our teachers have over OUR kids. More money being spent to house the incarcerated than educate, redirecting negative behavior instead of punishing, showing more empathy for living situations. Did you know some teacher criminalize OUR kids before they even get a chance at life simply by the way they dress? Topics that definitely needed to be discussed. ATTENTION PARENTS!!! We need ur help on forming a parent advocacy group. Minister Angel Johnson, Dr. Evelyn Underwood, Mrs. Patricia Avery, Mrs. Valarie Ammons and I will be organizing this group. We have to help make the change that is much needed in our schools. If you are serious about raising productive citizens for OUR community and not inmates for a prison…YOU WILL WANT TO BE APART OF THIS GROUP. GOD BLESS OUR KIDS!! More details coming soon..


Just to be clear, I am not certain I agree with everything in the post above, but that is the beauty of listening and learning from other people – we are all different, yet we are all special. I believe we share a common core intent – to improve the lives of the children in our charge, and I mean “other people’s children” (re, Lisa Delpit) as well.

Other Board Meeting tidbits

With all the hoopla surrounding SROs and the Central relocation saga, I did not see anything in the media that mentioned two other awesome things that transpired at the Board meeting on June 9th.


1. Parent Advocacy Committee

Three representatives of the Parent Advocacy Committee, including new Edison Principal Mr. Tony Howard and Edison Math/Avid Teacher Ms. Tomeka Whitfield, presented an update from the committee. However, the PDF by itself does not do their verbal delivery justice, hence I very much encourage you to tune into the Vimeo recording of the meeting and fast forward to 36:17.

For a little disclosure, I am listed as a member of the Parent Advocacy Committee, but I have not attended any of the meetings during the past school year. During that time the committee met almost monthly to hash out how to realistically implement recommendations they made to the board last year, as well as meeting with many area experts on the topic of family engagement. They have formed partnerships and come up with some tangible action steps; an “engagement” survey at several schools this year and planning to have a significant welcoming initiative in place for the 2015-2016 school year.

I have to confess, these timelines are … a bit slow for me, and I want to see “more” (more initiatives, more action steps, more people involved). *grin* However, I was completely inspired as I listened to Mr. Howard and Ms. Whitfield speak at the board meeting. They even roped in Board President Laurie Bonnett to participate and support their efforts. I think their ideals and the concepts they embody are crucial to the success of our community and the school district. There must be a solid sense of collaboration and cooperation between the schools and the community in order for us to succeed.


2. Trades and Unit 4 Partnership

Marc Changnon (Director of Education to Careers & Profession) is no less charismatic than Mr. Howard and Ms. Whitfield – it was a double-header of passionate people trying to make a positive difference in the lives of those around them. On this blog and in comments to various online NG articles, many folks have talked about basic skills needed for “the trades” (carpentry, electrical, plumbing, automotive, etc). What I really liked about Changnon’s approach is that he makes it clear that college isn’t for everyone, and that there exists the very real, very much needed, and rewarding alternative of pursuing a job sans a four-year degree. While this portion of the meeting got a little long-winded (another guest speaker was invited up to augment Mr. Changnon’s presentation), I was reminded of how much we need people like Mr. Changnon, Mr. Howard and Ms. Whitfield to champion these ideas before the board. And part of that work involves being persistent – many issues clamor for the board’s attention, so unless it is consistently percolating to the top, it will not see much action.


3. (BONUS) TALKS Mentoring

Last but certainly not least, I noticed in today’s NG an article about Rev. Harold Davis and his work with the “TALKS” mentoring program. As a mentor in the Unit 4 One-to-One mentoring program, I have rubbed shoulders with folks from TALKS on several occasions. I am glad Rev. Davis has been honored with this aware, but more importantly, that he had an opportunity to share his beliefs on the topic of mentoring and fathering, and how these small steps can have such a positive impact on our society.

April 22nd special board meeting

I have not had a chance to watch it – only spot-checked it to make sure it was recording:


A couple interesting things on the agenda; Cheryl Camacho and Tony Howard presented on the Parent Advocacy recommendation(s) and Elizabeth DeGruy presented on special needs (aka, “Board Retreat Follow-up”),  Orlando spoke again on TALP, Lockman again on the changes to policy concerning discipline, three folks bumped up to Assistant Principals, and a couple other things.


Meg’s article focuses on the approval of the TALP program, and mentions a couple other things as well.

Wrapping up the "final" recommendation from the Parent Advocacy Committee

The Parent Advocacy Committee is wrapping up their final recommendation for Dr. Wiegand. I am including the presentation here in an effort to see what you all think – I’ll comment later as I have time.


Parent Advocacy Committee Presentation- Final 4.22.13


If you would like some context as to how we arrived at these recommendations, I would suggest two resources (if you up for some reading):


Or just ask questions here and I’ll try to answer them. 🙂


I myself have glanced through the presentation, but have not yet digested it.

Parent Advocacy Committee (review of Dec 7th meeting)

Last Friday’s Advocacy meeting went well, although a few of you will point out “done” much. We did have some excellent conversations, and aside from exploring and brainstorming our purpose, we don’t have much to show for what we did. That is a sword that cuts both ways.


Before I go on, I did want to point out that I created a couple online resources to aid the online community:



I grew impatient waiting for others to do this. 🙂 On a more serious note, why is it that the Unit 4 web presence does not empower its own employees to be co-creators? Or to zoom out, why is the web so hard? In our day and age, I expect much more of user interfaces. But now I digress.


So for last Friday. The majority of our time was spent trying to figure out what we were doing. 🙂 Don’t get me wrong, a lot of great ideas came up – when Cheryl posts the notes and minutes, you can read over them to see how the committee is shaping up. It is obvious that there are is no single working definition of “advocacy”, thus to find a “mission statement” or a succinct “purpose” was all but impossible. So we came up with a series of core beliefs about what we thought advocacy should do. As mentioned previously, there is a lot of overlap with Laura Taylor’s Social Justice Committee. In fact Sean Morrison (principal at Westview) was sitting right next to me and mentioned this very thing at the meeting.

The last part of the meeting was exploring the idea of a “Needs Assessment”. I had emailed the group earlier (as mentioned in a blog post) about other resources that are already doing this sort of thing – I have no idea if my email got any traction or not. The 13 or so of us that were present all ended the meeting with an action item to somehow access needs in our local circles. I think the point is that we will report back to the group in January and somehow address those needs. I think.

Afterwards I had a most excellent chat with one of the members who is a kindergarten teacher. She has done several home visits with the parents and has shared what an amazing impact that has had. I talked to her with the purpose of trying to figure out how to get other teachers to do the same. It turned out to be a very satisfying and exciting conversation, and I think we are going to try to cross school boundaries and first introduce this idea (and the impact it has had) to various parents first. It is my hope to get a groundswell of parents who see the value of home visits and actively desire it, hoping to build momentum to get the parent voice to demand this of the district. Of course, if we are misguided and most parents do not want this, there will be no strong voice. 🙂 I think this experiment to see if our ideas are in the right place or not.


Cheryl also suggested that I read Dan and Chip Heath’s “Switch: How to change things when change is hard” (found a free ebook for those interested). Having made my way about 2/3 through it, I have realized it shares a significant parallel to Malcolm Gladwell’s “Tipping Point” and Jonah Lehrer’s “How we decide”; very similar styles of writing and format, with extremely similar concepts just using different words. I read these kinds of books and I find them simultaneously invigorating and frustrating. Invigorating because there is a lot that strikes a chord with me and helps me understand the world around me. Frustrating because too often I see the big changes I would like to happen and loose track of the small “next steps” that are much more practical. The big picture often overwhelms me – I find myself wanting someone else to tell me what to do. I don’t want to make the decisions. Some times I don’t even want to talk. I just want to do.

Update about the Parent Advisory Committee

From Cheryl Camacho:


Please find attached the agenda for our next meeting which is scheduled for this Friday, December 7 from 3:30-5:00pm.  Please come prepared to follow up on our single action item which was to engage people to find out what they envision/think when they are asked what is parent advocacy? ; please feel free to speak strictly from your context.  One of our goals for the meeting on Friday is to come away with a shared working definition for “Parent Advocacy” that will drive our committee’s work.


Parent Advocacy Committee Agenda 12.7.12


[from me *grin*]

I briefly glanced at the Agenda – I am concerned about the Needs Assessment piece, partially because it seems like everyone is doing some kind of “Needs Assessment” but they are, more often than not, siloed efforts. How do we tap into all those other efforts? For instance, ACCESS Initiative recently (Nov 8) held a Think Tank (and here) where they did this kind of thing, but I cannot find where they report out what they found.


Another problem I have is trying to reach a broader audience with a question. I asked on this blog about Advocacy and I received zero comments. 🙂 I am not blaming you, just demonstrating how social media like blogs are not good for asking these kinds of questions. At least in my case. Maybe I need to be more provocative. I have asked several parents and friends in my own circles and have received a variety of ideas. For instance, one said it is an organization that speaks up for social justice and equity issues. Another said it was a way to represent another in legal matters. I am still asking folks.


Lastly, between this and the Social Justice Committee I am seeing a metric ton of overlap. There is a LOT of positive energy, but for me personally, the structure and format of these meetings drains my energy away. Maybe I crave more action steps. Maybe I crave more community participation. It is hard for me to put my finger on it; how do I get to the point of where I am satisfied with my own involvement in these efforts?


Cheryl ended her email with this:

Last, we are working with Dave Hohman, Champaign Unit 4’s Director of Instructional Technology, on creating an online space to upload information related to this committee.  We are excited about the level of transparency that will showcase and highlight this important work.  Just wanted to keep you in the loop.



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 »