What follows is my letter to my daughters' LA School Board. Names have been edited:
I was at the meeting last night, but had to leave early so I could pick up my kids.
I understand that, as was stated by several of you last night, we're all on the same team. So why doesn't it feel like it?
You mentioned that communication is a large part of the problem, and your response was that things are changing daily. There are now several ways that you can communicate this to us on a daily basis, and even more frequently. Blogger, TypePad and WordPress are just a few of the free blogging sites that would allow you to update us as much as necessary.
President A. also mentioned that there were 3 PTA meetings this past Tuesday. Actually, there were 4. I was at the D. Elementary PTA meeting on Tuesday night. I think it is a great idea to have a Board representative attend these meetings.
As a parent, my greatest frustration right now is the feeling that we have no say in what will be happening. I have attended all but one of the PTA meetings at D. (and will be their Recording Secretary next year), but I'm a single, working parent and cannot join any other committee, including the PTA at J., where my older daughter is in the 6th grade. I do what I can to be involved, and yet it doesn't seem to be enough.
In the meantime, the term "parental involvement" has been thrown around for the past few years as the solution to all of the problems. I'm expected to volunteer, donate items, help with homework (and sometimes re-teach the concepts, even though I'm nowhere near qualified to be an educator), make sure my kids eat healthy breakfasts, get the kids all revved up about standardized tests (which I still don't agree with, and can't believe that everyone seems to have stopped fighting them), pay for and get my kids to extra-curricular activities to round out their education (all the while working full-time), and support the teachers even when the teachers union's leadership (not the teachers, but their leadership) doesn't support cost-cutting ideas that would save teachers' jobs.
I do what I can, but I cannot take on the entire burden myself, particularly as a single mom. I don't have a partner at home to make dinner while I help my daughter with her homework or someone else to throw in a load of laundry to make sure my older daughter has her PE uniform ready for school.
I need support. I need support from my daughters' teachers to provide the best education possible. I need support from a Board that recognizes that consistency and stability are imperative to children's development. I need support from a teachers union that should acknowledge that longer school hours and a longer school year are the only way for every single one of our students to stay on track. As one teacher mentioned last night in their presentation, sometimes the train keeps on going, and none of our students are "average" learners.
My largest frustration comes in not knowing what to do about it. Not knowing what's being done about it. Not having the time to attend every single school-related meeting at both schools and on the District level to even know who's in charge of what.
I learned at the D. PTA meeting that even if we somehow raised the funds to keep one position, that particular teacher in the position right now might not be the one who gets the job. I don't understand why Principals don't have more say in who is hired to work at the school. I don't understand why ineffective teachers are allowed to remain. I don't understand why the type of "parental involvement" required to affect change must be a full-time job in and of itself (outside of raising the kids and providing a home because each meeting is time away from my kids).
We all may indeed be on the same team, but as a parent, I feel like I'm the third-string player, only called upon to try and make up for everyone else's mistakes.
Originally posted on LA Moms, April 17, 2009.