Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Parent Empowerment - Education in HoCo

Almost didn’t make the Parent Empowerment Education Forum, presented by the African American Community Roundtable of Howard County and the Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) last night.  A light-hearted dramedy of minor miscues transpired shortly before our planned departure; but everything was handled and we arrived at Wilde Lake High School at 7:00 pm.

It was clearly The Event in HoCo last night.  The Jim Rouse Theatre was packed to capacity…with several attendees sans chairs standing about in the back or side of the auditorium.  In addition to the concerned parents, there were a number of community leaders, elected (and appointed) officials, educators, students and candidates present.

The long and short of the forum was a focus on promoting parental engagement in the learning process.  Specifically, the gathering centered on strategies and programs designed to help parents help their children excel in their primary and secondary education.

Candace Dodson Reed led off the event with the welcoming and introductory remarks.  She did her usual excellent job.  The order of the proceedings once established, it was time for Dr. Foose, the HCPSS Superintendent, to make her presentation.

Dr. Foose’s speech could best be described as Progress.  She covered some of the technological and cultural steps taken to enhance the learning environment in Howard County public schools (“family programs, parent advocates, daily routines, community involvement”).  She also presented some data points illustrating advancements made in graduation rates, test scores and other diagnostic measures among African-American students in the HCPSS within the past couple of years.

Next up was Albert Corvah, recent HCPSS grad and now Harvard University student.  His remarks could best be entitled The Promise.  He related his personal narrative (successes, challenges, motivating factors) and gave abundant credit to his parents for helping him excel academically.  I concur with Mr. Corvah that I wish there were more students present at the Forum last night; he definitely had a message that could have resonated with middle and high school students.  Perhaps his taped speech could be shown in classes throughout the County. 

After a solid introduction by Robin Jean Baptiste (WLHS student), Dr. Freeman Hrabowski (President, UMBC) got up and delivered what we call a good, old-fashioned stem-winder.  Now, you usually get a heavy dose of erudition when university presidents speak, but…as a general rule…many long-time academicians can be a little dry.  Fortunately, Dr. Hrabowski’s speech was both informative and engaging.  His presentation could be referred to as The Vision. He weaved a storyline that included elements from his childhood as well as his experiences as an educator and college president and delivered practical (yet academically grounded) counsel on parental involvement strategies.

I missed the introduction of the next speaker, but I believe the final remarks (aka “So Here Are the Next Steps") were delivered by the Reverend Dr. Robert Turner (Senior Pastor, St. John Baptist Church).  His presentation could best be summarized as The Program.  He talked about some of the concrete programmatic efforts that are underway, including the Parent Academy that… as I recall… will be launched in the Spring of 2015.  I assume the African American Community Roundtable of Howard County (this organization can be found on Facebook) will be providing additional information on this and similar initiatives in the near future.

Overall, from my vantage point, I believe the event was a smashing success.  There was an aura of enthusiasm in the room, a palpable sense that these efforts can Make a Difference.  It is clear, from the questionnaires distributed to the audience members (note: I didn’t see the survey instrument myself) that the Roundtable wants to foster an ongoing dialogue with parents and other community stakeholders to explore and assess needs, wants, concerns, expectations, etc…  That is an excellent process to have in place and I hope there are ample opportunities and milieus for an open, thoughtful and evolving education conversation in the days, weeks and months ahead.

On a personal note, I am just elated to write about something beyond Campaign 2014.  A candidate for BoE could have walked up to me last night and said they were going to launch an investigation into the disappearance of Atlantis and I wouldn’t have posted about it…at least not right away.  But if you are seeking public office and you would like to share your thoughts on UFOs, chemtrails, fluoride, the Hollow Earth hypothesis or any similar topics, please drop me a line. 

Stay tuned, as more will follow. 

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