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Tuesday, May 08, 2007

CAO's Plans for Family Input and Involvement

I am cautiously optimistic that positive changes are beginning to happening in the organizational culture at Seattle Public Schools.

One reason is that our CAO, Carla Santorno, is thinking about how to involve families in meaningful ways. Below (shared with Carla's permission) is a description of some of her plans in this area.

"I plan to start parent critical friend groups that can assist in giving a real life lens into the issues each of our schools face. That is in addition to a student panel that will represent each of our high schools.

Additionally, we will publish "what you need to know" booklets for each grade level K - 8 , and for each subject in high school. Then the community and families can take a stronger role in providing feedback about classroom instruction.

I will work on that as soon as we complete a curriculum audit to clearly align our EALRS and GLEs k-12."

2 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

I think that, as with academics, our district community is polarized with regard to family involvement. And, as with academics, the District staff is really only interested in working with one end of the spectrum.

On one hand we have the hardcore un-involved. They don't come to parent-teacher meetings, they don't help their kids with their homework, they don't get involved when their kids are subject to discipline, they just generally don't support their children's education.

The District talks a lot about how to bring these people into the schools and get them involved. They provide childcare and refreshments at meetings. They are begging these people to come in, all with only limited success.

Then there are the folks at the other end of the spectrum. They are actively involved in their children's education. They not only help their kids with homework and read with them, they communitcate frequently with their children's teachers. They come to all the meetings, volunteer at school, and fundraise for the school. That's all fine and well, but then they want a seat at the table when decisions are made.

The district - and many of the schools - are pushing these people away with both hands. I can provide a number of documented examples starting with the School Transformation Plan from Madrona, the District's refusal to enter into a dialog with any member of the community, and the Superintendent's response to the School-Family Partnership Plan.

I think that I will find Carla Santorno's plan more credible when she actually implements it. The fact is that Ms Santorno would not allow any dialog between District staff and the APP Advisory Committee in the months leading up to the decision about how to relieve overcrowding at Washington Middle School.

Even her description of how to involve families in meaningful ways doesn't sound all that meaningful to me. She once told me that I was one of her "critical friends"; she hasn't communicated with me since.

Anonymous said...

I am a Denver Public Schools Teacher. Carla was my schools area superintendent...in my limited experience with her, (she was rarely seen in schools) she only got involved when something might make the papers or make a parent angry, that was the extent of her leadership as I saw it from our school.

I don't know the story of how she went from being an area superintendent (basically overseeing a group of 20-30 schools in a geographic quadrant of Denver, CO) to your Chief Academic Officer. I hope Seattle parents are vigilant around her and her ideas/plans/and initiatives. Good luck. Demand proof and documentation of her initiatives, go with what works, and don't let her push the district into HER ideas if others don't agree.