Graduates of a statewide parent institute will form a majority on the school board in the 35,000-student Fayette County district in Lexington, Ky., starting in January.
Since 1997, the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership has trained hundreds of parents to understand Kentucky’s school accountability system and become leaders in their children’s schools.
Learn more about the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership.
Now, a growing number of those parents are turning up as school board members across the state.
Three of the five members of the Fayette County board completed the leadership program created by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence, an influential citizens’ group in Lexington that seeks improvements in Kentucky schools.
One alumna, Amanda Main Ferguson, defeated three other candidates last month to win a spot on the board. Melissa Bacon, who also completed the program, was appointed by Kentucky’s education commissioner recently to fill a vacancy on the board. Becky Sagan was elected to the board in 2004.
Statewide, 36 board members are alumni of the institute, said Beverly N. Raimondo, the director of the program. Since holding its first workshop in 1997, the institute has trained 1,362 parents, she said.
Grooming parents to become school board members is not a goal of the program, but Ms. Raimondo called school board service an obvious next step for some parents who complete the institute’s training.
“We do see it as a logical progression,” she said. “After going through our program, parents have spent a lot of time thinking about how schools work, how to make them better, and the importance of keeping student achievement as the top focus.”
The course, which spans six days and includes lots of homework, focuses on teaching parents a range of skills, Ms. Raimondo said. They are assigned to obtain academic data from their children’s schools and taught how to read the data, question it, and understand it. Techniques for running meetings and recruiting other parents are also taught.
Finally, each parent must develop and put in place a project for his or her child’s school that aims to raise achievement. Parents have started tutoring programs and worked with teachers to bring more arts activities into the classroom.
A version of this article appeared in the December 06, 2006 edition of Education Week