More than two hundred parents attended the 11th annual Parents as Partners and Leaders Conference held at Lovonya DeJean Middle School last Saturday.
The conference, which is open to all parents in the West Contra Costa Unified School District, included over a dozen workshops, led mostly by district teachers, on topics including navigating the special education system, helping children become better readers, talking to children about sex, paying for college and preventing bullying.
Bullying prevention was the focus of the conference’s keynote speech by Erika Leonard, Program Director at Kidpower California, an anti-violence and anti-bullying organization.
“Parents are the best coaches of their kids, and kids deserve coaching on skills to be safe,” said Leonard.
Leonard, who has worked with Kidpower for 22 years, said the goal of the annual conference is to inspire parents to believe in their ability to help their children acquire the skills they need to protect themselves.
“It’s so essential and it’s so important for parents to learn how you can positively prevent bullying,” said parent and conference attendee Ausberto Beltran, whose child is in fifth grade at Olinda Elementary School.
The annual conference offers parents a range of guidance, information and advice.
WCCUSD Superintendent Matthew Duffy said the event gives parents a chance to become involved in decision-making processes, see how the district determines its “budgets and priorities,” and learn how to build a “great PTA.”
Workshops at this year’s conference also gave parents strategies for helping children with everything from reading and math, homework to good discipline.
“This program is excellent, and I wish we could have more than one a year,” said parent Fayza Ayyad, whose child is in seventh grade at Caliber: Beta Academy. “There are a lot of things we need to be educated on how to raise a child.”
Parent Mariela Cuellar, who has a home-schooled child and a child at Benito Juarez Elementary School, said one of the sessions, titled “It Takes a Village,” was aptly named.
“Right now there is a lot of division between parents, communities and schools,” she said. “Our goals, focus has to be the children. We need to create partnerships.”
WCCUSD school board member Valerie Cuevas agreed.
“We will increase success for our students when everyone is partnered and working in ways that contributes to their success,” Cuevas said.