We are fortunate to have had the opportunity to work with eight spectacular parent leaders during the 2022-2023 Parent Advocate Policy Lab, which has now come to a close. Throughout the fellowship, parents attend sessions on topics including advocacy, communications, writing public testimony, state and local school funding, budgetary processes, power mapping, and more. Parent leaders participated in monthly coaching sessions to discuss challenges they are facing in their respective districts, explore solutions, and share resources.
To cumulate their Lab experience, parent leaders presented plans to address a challenge in their communities and apply tools from the Lab. Here are some of the ways these parent leaders will continue advancing educational equity in their communities:
Vonetta T. Rhodes: Parent of a 10th-grade student, Buffalo Public Schools, Western New York; PARENTS are EDUCATOR ADVOCATES and CHAMPIONS EVERY DAY (PEACE Collective)
As part of the WNY Child Care Action Team, Vonetta is leading the PEACE Collective, which stands for parents to be educators, advocates, and champions every day. The PEACE Collective is an ongoing initiative for child care parent/caregiver voice, choice, support, and advocacy for parents and by parents only. The PEACE Collective builds upon parent voice initiatives in Buffalo and gives more parents the opportunity to have a Lab experience and further develop advocacy and policy skills.
Angela Torres: Parent of students in 8th grade and college, New York City Department of Education; Supports and resources to increase parent engagement and involvement
Angela will support parents on strategies to increase parent engagement and involvement, including motivating them to create their own communication channels, encouraging them to read a lot — from state and federal laws, legislation proposals, and district policies — so parents know their power; and know their rights when it comes to the school budget. (At Title 1 schools, at least 1% or more of the budget must be allocated to parent and family involvement initiatives and supplemental funding for the school’s existing programs.)
Toyin Anderson: Parent of a 7th grade student, Rochester City School District, Western New York; Rescue Recess, parent advocacy for wellness policy
Toyin will continue to work with Healthi Kids Coalition in Rochester to #RescueRecess in Rochester. Recess plays a vital role in children’s social, cognitive, and physical development and health. Although Rochester City School District policy requires daily recess and prohibits removing recess as punishment, not all schools or classrooms follow this policy. Toyin is working with other parents and community members to ensure that all students have access to recess.
Raquelle Couer: Parent of students in 5th grade and 10th grade, Elmont Free Union School District, Long Island; Eliminating barriers to parent engagement: reinstatement of the Zoom option
Racquelle will continue to advocate reinstating Zoom options for both local school and board meetings to accommodate her community’s working parents who work long hours at night. A live streaming would make participation easier and allow for more community members to be present. Racquelle has inquired about state legislation, district policies, and NYSED regulations that could influence this issue, as well as how to acquire additional funding.
Sara Taylor: Parent of an 8th grade student, Rochester City School District, Western New York; Family peer advocacy space for students with IEPs
Sara is a leader of the BIPOC Parent Mental Health Project, which elevates BIPOC parent voices and educates and empowers them to eliminate disparities and inequities in services related to the emotional health of kids. She will continue to advocate to expand the number of credentialed Family Peer Advocates of color in Rochester schools to support children with unique needs, IEPs, and health conditions. Family Peer Advocates have firsthand experience and receive training to empower and support other families, fostering parent-professional partnerships, and are not employed by the school district. Senator Brouk’s office has provided funding to pilot the program at Rochester Regional Health Wellness Center, and Sara plans to secure additional funding from state and federal sources to continue this vital work.
Amy Tsai: Parent of students in 2nd, 5th, 8th, 10th, 11th grades, New York City Department of Education: Support for school leadership teams
Amy will continue to advocate for more support for school leadership teams, which are comprised of parents, including the Parent Teacher Association President president, and school staff, including the United Federation of Teachers chapter leader and the principal. Additionally, she will monitor NYSED Commissioner’s Regulation 100.11, New York State Education law 2590-h, and the New York City Chancellor’s regulations A-655 — all of which pertain to parent engagement — and ensure that law and regulations are being followed as they relate to their functionality in her community.
Cherry-Ann Persaud: Parent of a 7th-grade student, Sewanhaka Central High School District, Long Island; Parent voice at building and district level
Cherry-Ann will continue to advocate for increased parental involvement in PTA and decision-making at both the building and district levels. She is pushing for a district and building implementation of NYSED Commissioner’s Regulation 100.11, which outlines parent involvement in school-based planning and shared decision-making. This regulation requires districts to create a plan for parent and teacher participation, with reporting every two years. Forming this committee at the building and district level would encourage collaboration between parents and school administration to address weaknesses and build on strengths.
Purnima Moham: Parent of a 9th grade student, Williamsville Central School District, Western New York; Environmental sustainability programs in schools and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives
Purnima will continue to advocate for environmental sustainability in schools, focusing on implementing recycling and composting programs. She will work with the Board of Education and school districts regarding their strategic plan to create a culture of sustainability. She will also continue to advocate for increased funding from the New York State Legislature and the Governor for this initiative. Additionally, she will continue her advocacy efforts to increase Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) in schools. This involves addressing disparities in cultural holidays and observances, equitable representation of cultural celebrations, and diversifying the teaching staff.