Single dad Paul Lumpkin had moved himself and his two children to Springfield, Mass., to begin life anew, after a bruising custody battle for his son and daughter. So he was understandably wary when his daughter’s kindergarten teacher asked to pay a home visit. He wondered if she had done something wrong in school. “I was expecting the worst, to say the least,” Lumpkin said. Instead that visit, designed to encourage parent engagement, turned out to be “transformative” for Lumpkin and his daughter Key-Aurah. Getting to know her teacher informally helped turn the shy 5-year old into a class leader. Lumpkin became actively involved in his children’s education and then stepped up as a parent leader when the district decided it could no longer fund parent-teacher home visits - despite widespread parent support. “I thought that if parents wanted it, then it was one of those things that they would find a way to make it happen. It was a rude awakening … because it didn’t work like that.” His advocacy, and that of other parents convinced the district to find the needed resources. Lumpkin says his experience has taught him that as “parents, we need to establish our voice.”
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