During recent Berkeley County training on Local School Improvement Councils, a room full of parents and teachers listened as one teacher discussed her county superintendent’s decision to halt LSICs due to recent legislation. Yet no legislation restricts LSICs: the advisory boards and governing bodies of each school consisting of parents, teachers, students, community members and principals.
So why wasn’t there pushback against this misinformation? Why aren’t school and county administrators held accountable to policies that create these necessary advisory boards? For many parents and teachers, the answer is simple: fear of retaliation.
This is one of many factors that hinder progress in West Virginia public schools. The staff of Our Future West Virginia, previously the West Virginia Healthy Kids and Families Coalition, has traveled across the state to facilitate training to educate parents about LSICs. This is a priority issue for the organization that recently changed its image to better reflect the economic, education and racial justice work it’s doing across the state.
OFWV and its Families Leading Change program have encountered one frustrating story after another from parents and teachers. Even though LSICs have the ability to bring all stakeholders together to improve student achievement, they’re still facing bureaucratic obstacles. But a change is coming; a change led by parents who have said, “Enough.”
After hitting a wall with her son’s school administration, one parent spent the day calling every school in the county about their LSICs. She discovered that only two schools were holding LSIC meetings, because of misguided direction by the county superintendent.
In addition, her request to see the minutes of one school’s LSIC meeting was denied due to supposed privacy limitations. Yet, thanks to her own resolve and the knowledge supplied by OFWV’s training, she didn’t falter, stating that LSIC meetings and minutes are legally open to the public.
This is just one example of how misinformation prevents parents from improving their child’s school. LSICs are back in Jefferson County, thanks to a fierce parent armed with both the knowledge of education policy and the skills to effectively communicate and enforce it.
Parents across the state are following this lead. One parent, frustrated by her child’s school not following policy and inspired by LSIC training, decided to run for a seat on her county’s school board. A similar pattern is happening in another county, where parents are taking back power in their communities by running for seats on the county school board and House of Delegates.
West Virginia parents are empowered! And LSICs are only an entry point for parent engagement in the policies that affect children throughout the state. Our Future WV is providing more opportunities for parents across the state to get involved.
One such opportunity is the WV Pep Squad, a fully funded program that will teach students and parents how to mobilize and systematically change their child’s school. Participants will learn how to get involved with LSICs and gain a voice in their child’s school. The deadline to apply is Friday, Feb. 7. Applications can be found at www.ourfuturewv.org/opportunities.
Our Future WV also encourages community members to attend the state Board of Education meeting on Feb. 12 at 10 a.m. in Charleston. This meeting will discuss various education policies, including charter schools, graduation requirements, curricula and LSICs. For those who can’t make it, email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) a comment or letter with your opinion on one or more of the policies and we will read it in your place. To speak at the meeting, sign up online.
For more updates on education justice and how to get involved, check out Our Future WV’s website or Facebook page.
For those interested in civic engagement, OFWV and the Count Me In WV Coalition are offering a fully funded Census Fellowship, to increase awareness and participation in the 2020 census. Applicants can receive up to $3,500 for creating a Get Out the Count plan. Applications can be found at www.ourfuture wv.org/opportunities. If you have a project you’d like to start in your community around civic engagement, economic, education or racial justice, check out their website to find an organizer in your area.