As a parent of a child in Prince George’s County Public Schools, how can you become more involved in the school system? How can you make a difference, both in your neighborhood school and in the system at large? Members of Prince George’s County Advocates for Better Schools came up with this list of ideas:
1. Communicate regularly with your child’s teacher. Be sure to include specific expressions of gratitude and appreciation. Contact the teacher first, before going to the principal or supervisor, if you have concerns about what’s going on in the classroom. You may eventually need to work with your school’s guidance counselor or principal for additional assistance.
2. Get to know PGCPS’s new Ombudsman Office. The ombudsman serves as a neutral party to resolve school-related concerns. The ombudsman office should not be your first point of contact, however. Here is PGCPS’s official “Guide to Addressing Questions and Concerns.”
3. Participate in PGCPS’s online surveys and feedback forms. During the 2015-2016 school year, parent feedback was solicited on several topics, including the school systems’ operating budget, proposed new grading policies, and student safety, for example. Watch for these opportunities on the pgcps.org home page.
4. Sign up for email updates. Go here to sign up for email and text updates. Once you submit your email address, you will be given the option to subscribe to a variety of updates. Besides school closings and delays, you may choose announcements from Board of Education members, monthly newsletters from PGCPS, college and career information, lunch menus, and more.
5. Keep track of grades and assignments through SchoolMAX, and communicate with your child’s teacher if you have questions.
6. Get to know other parents and talk with them about their experiences and ideas. Whether they have found frustration or success as they have advocated for their children, you will learn from their stories, and you may be able to work together for a common cause. You might join one of several Facebook groups for PGCPS parents: PGCPS Education Forum, Parents and PGCPS, and PG Parents for Education are good options.
7. Know who your Board of Education representative is and communicate with them about issues that are important to you. (See this map if you’re not sure which Board District you are in.) Most BOE representatives hold forums, community meetings, or morning coffees at several points during the year. Try to attend one for your district. Even if you don’t have a specific concern to bring up, you’ll learn much by meeting the Board member who represents you and listening to what other parents have to say.
8. Several times each year, PGCPS holds community meetings on various topics. Attending these meetings gives you a chance to talk to PGCPS officials, meet other parents, and give feedback about the school system.
10. Testify at the Board of Education if there is an issue that you feel needs extra attention. Public comments are welcome at Board meetings and hearings.
11. Get informed about the budget process. Speak up if you want PGCPS’s spending priorities to change! In the first months of the school year, you will have the opportunity to give feedback online (check pgcps.org) about the following year’s operating budget. You may also choose to speak at one of several budget hearings in the fall and winter months.
12. Contact elected officials in the Maryland state government about issues that are outside of PGCPS’s control. The governor and state legislature affect how our school board is structured, how our schools are funded, and what kinds of standardized tests our children take, for example.
13. If you have a child in special education, join the Special Education Citizens’ Advisory Committee (SECAC) for Prince George’s County. This group provides a network and support for parents who are advocating for their children with special needs.
Also, the Prince George’s Association of TAG advocates for high-quality instruction for talented and gifted students.
14. Many parents join the PTA or PTO at the beginning of the year, but far fewer actually attend meetings throughout the year. Make it a goal to attend at least one meeting beyond the first meeting of the year. Consider accepting a volunteer position with the PTA/PTO.
15. Besides Back-to-School Night, many schools also host a variety of other evening outreach programs for parents (Math Night, Literacy Nights, Common Core Workshops, etc.). These are sometimes well-planned but poorly attended. Showing up at one or more of these sends a message of support and engagement to your school’s staff.
16. Attending your local city council meetings can help you find allies that will advocate on behalf of neighborhood schools. Mayors and council members often work to address problems with the schools; many parents don’t know what is being done behind the scenes unless they are connected to city council members or officials. City officials can apply pressure to solve problems.
17. Understand PGCPS’s administrative structure. We have a CEO, Deputy Superintendents, a Chief of Staff, and many other administrators. Here is the web page that outlines the administrative organization.
18. Post reviews on sites like GreatSchools.com to help bring attention to the accomplishments and weaknesses of your child’s school. If many parents did this, it would create a more complete picture of the school than just the occasional rant or rave review.
Would you add anything to this list? Tell us in the comments section.