Parents and students of the Richmond community gathered Tuesday night to discuss what’s working, and what’s not working, in education today.
The point of the meeting was to capture the stories, experiences and ideas of parents and students, said Sandy Close, the director of New America Media, which organized the event with the RYSE Center. These nonprofits plan to take those stories to the state board of education. Based on what they heard at the meeting, the groups plan to emphasize the importance of investing in programs that boost parental involvement in education.
The California state legislature is restructuring the way money is allocated to schools with what’s called the Local Control Funding Formula. “We came here tonight because the state board of education is developing priorities for how these additional funds might be directed, and are anxious to get parent and student advice,” Close said.
As parents and students rose to share their opinions, a few themes quickly became apparent. Parents shared stories about their involvement in the schools, and expressed a desire for the schools to take a greater share of the responsibly.
“It’s a full time job, every kid is different,” said Marquette Stockton, who has had multiple children go through the Richmond school system. “My experience is schools think all parents are stay at home parents, but some are working fifty-hours a week to pay rent, they have multiple kids and aging parents of their own. If we’re paying an educator to educate, they should be doing it.”
Mark Dowell has two daughters in Richmond schools. He is working to find the balance between being a parent and trying to have a career of his own.“I’m a single parent so it’s not easy. I’m trying to get my nursing certificate. I’m trying to get my career jumpstarted. But the most important thing I can do is just be there for them.”
Kai Johnson, 20, reflected on how his life may have been different if his parents were more involved. “Both of my parents have their own problems, basically growing up I had to learn a lot on my own. I got off track and I started doing other things. I didn’t graduate. I wish I did. I wish I could go back. Parents should be in a child’s life because it may change who they become.”
Several people at the meeting expressed a desire for the state to fund programs that would foster relationships between teachers and parents. “Establishing relationships is huge,” Azjah Mourton, 17, said. Adding, “Parents should feel comfortable to contact teachers at anytime.”
Sergio Solis, who works at the RYSE Center, said money should be invested in something as simple as hosting open forums for teachers and parents to share concerns and talk about what is going on in the schools. “I feel there is nothing as good as having the teacher and people directly affected involved and taking part [in the process],” Solis said.
Beverly Brown has a son at De Anza High. Recently, she received a call from his teacher detailing some misbehavior. Brown told the teacher to pull her son aside and reprimand him. The teacher said, “You’re right, I’m the one dealing with him, why am I telling you?”
Brown added, “A teacher engaging with your children is very important, and you might have something to offer them. They need feedback too.”