It’s no secret that getting parents involved in Prince George’s County schools has been a bit of a battle over the years. Despite efforts that included creating parent liaison positions to make the school system easier to navigate and hosting myriad events to lure parents, many schools still struggle just to get enough participation to form a PTA.
So it’s all the more important to highlight when a group of parents unite in an organized manner to fight for what they feel is best for students — which is exactly what happened at Obama Elementary School in Upper Marlboro.
County education officials planned to remove the sixth-grade class from the school in the next academic year to relieve overcrowding and move the grade level to nearby middle schools, an effort occurring countywide to get the grade level out of elementary schools.
However, Obama Elementary parents saw flaws in the plan and had a better way to handle the situation. They discussed the issue in PTA meetings and testified before the school board. They asked for a delay in the grade level’s move to allow more time for their children to prepare for the transition, and they asked for boundaries to be redrawn given that some nearby elementary schools appeared to be underutilized — and they won.
County school officials are now holding off on moving the sixth-grade class until the 2015-16 school year, and they are taking another look at school boundaries.
School board member Lyn Mundey (Dist. 7) told The Gazette the changes were made directly because of parents’ efforts.
“They were highly motivated and highly organized around this issue,” Mundey said. “It is really a collaborative process to work together for what is best for the students.”
For some, the parents’ success may seem like a small feat. However, in a county where low parental participation is such a problem that officials considered making it the sole focus of the school board, every example of parents stepping up is important.
Granted, parents aren’t solely to blame for the weak participation. Education officials acknowledge that they could do more in some cases to make schools more welcoming. And it wasn’t that long ago that the school board was so dysfunctional and out of touch with residents that the General Assembly disbanded the elected group.
However, having parents speak up, make suggestions and having their ideas embraced by the school system is a positive sign.
Many studies show that when parents and schools work together, students perform better in their classes. Obama Elementary parents — and parents countywide who take the time to show up at school and board meetings to address concerns — show that even a small, vocal group can make a big difference.