First State Educate's community action event Monday night focused on parental engagement with school boards.

FSE says parents need to engage in their kids’ education

Jarek RutzHeadlines, Education

First State Educate's community action event Monday night focused on parental engagement with school boards.

First State Educate’s community action event Monday night focused on parental engagement with school boards.

A group advocating for radical change to improve education in the state wants parents to be involved in their child’s education and is giving them the tools to do so. 

First State Educate hosted a webinar Monday night in what will be a series of meetings helping inform the public about the current state of education in Delaware. 

Monday’s was called “First Steps to Understanding Education: Navigating and Engaging with Delaware School Boards” in which leaders from the organization explained how to contact school board members, how to get information on school boards, the key issues school boards are paying attention to today, the composition of different district school boards and why parental engagement is key. 

Yvonne Johnson

Yvonne Johnson

“Don’t underestimate your voice, because it’s important and in order to change the status quo, to change student outcomes, people need to speak up,” said Yvonne Johnson, school board consultant for First State Educate. 

Establishing common goals in the community is key, she said, adding that studies have shown a child’s outcome is more positive when their parent or caregiver is a participant in their educational journey. 

Many aren’t aware of the authority of school board members, so First State Educate explained the main responsibilities they have, including:

  • Hiring, firing and evaluating superintendents based on student outcomes
  • Exercise financial oversight of district budgets, which are millions of dollars
  • Represent the interests of their community with transparency and responsiveness
  • Be accountable to taxpayers, students and families from the district
  • Create and adopt policies that govern the school district. 

“It’s important for families and educators to be involved in those discussions, and most school districts have a policy committee which the citizens of that district can serve on,” Johnson said. 

Every district has contact information for individual school board members on their website, typically a phone number and email.

First State Educate encourages parents to get to know school board members to build a relationship with them and even the superintendent. 

“Show up and make yourself known,” Johnson said. 

District websites also have pages with board meeting information so parents can prepare themselves for upcoming information and if they choose to give public comment, taking a look at the agenda beforehand can be helpful. 

But, Johnson pointed out, public comment isn’t a back-and-forth conversation with school board members. It’s a one-sided conversation, which highlights again why it’s important to forge a connection with board members outside of the meetings too. 

The issues that school board members face, which are largely driven by pressure from community members, include school safety, school funding, achievement gaps in literacy and numeracy, teacher recruitment and retention, educational initiatives, curriculum content and family engagement. 

“You are the person who votes for them, and you have to hold them accountable,” Johnson said. “Just like they have to hold the superintendent accountable, the community, the constituents, have to hold the school board accountable, and do this in a very positive way. Don’t be adversarial. Don’t be confrontational.”

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