[ProgressiveEd] Parent Coordinator Position 2

[email protected] [email protected]
Fri, 30 May 2003 16:34:29 EDT

Dear folks,
I'm sending you a later version of the position paper about the parent 
coordinator position that was done by the Center for Immigrant Families (CIF).  I 
inadvertently sent an earlier version.  There are small but significant changes 
in the final.  I apologize for my mistake.  Bruce Kanze
The following are some suggestions about the new parent coordinator position 
submitted for your consideration by the Center for Immigrant Families (CIF). 
CIF is a community-based organization of mostly immigrant parents of color that 
is committed to furthering the human rights of immigrants. CIF works to 
strengthen parent, school, and community partnership, to build parent power and 
leadership, and for just and equitable public education for all our children. We 
can be contacted at 212-531-3011 or at [email protected].
Many parents, particularly immigrant parents and parents of color, have often 
felt marginal in their children’s school and, in myriad ways, made to feel 
that they don’t have a valuable contribution to make.  We must reaffirm the 
importance of parents’ experiences and knowledge in our children’s education and 
The school needs to be a community space that serves all its children and 
their families. Children’s learning and development flourish most successfully in 
an environment in which all the school’s families and children are valued and 
respected. We know that students learn best when all “teachers”, which 
includes their families, communities, and school, are working closely together in 
Parent Coordinator/Organizer Selection Process
A diverse, independent body of parents should select the parent coordinator 
so that she/he represents the needs, concerns, and voices of the parent 
community and is accountable to the parents she/he serves.  No one knows better than 
parents themselves who would best serve as their representative in the school. 
 A parent coordinator selected by a process that insures genuine 
representation of the needs and concerns of the parents will be of the greatest benefit 
to, and in the best interest of, the entire school community. 
Who Should Be the Parent Coordinator/Organizer?
Goal of parent coordinator/organizer position: The parent coordinator should 
be someone who can help build meaningful parent, school, and community 
partnership; create and strengthen structures that build parent organizing and 
leadership; and better integrate parents into the decision-making processes in the 
This can best be achieved by someone who:
ÿ Is an independent voice for parents that represents and is accountable to 
the parent community. Frequently, parent leaders have felt beholden to the 
administration or caught between parents and school officials; 
ÿ Represents the racial, class, cultural, and linguistic backgrounds of the 
parent community. All too often, parent leaders have been unrepresentative of 
the larger school community; 
ÿ Is familiar with the school community and with the larger community and 
recognizes the importance of building relationships with community-based groups 
and institutions.
Role of the Parent Coordinator/Organizer
The parent coordinator’s role should include: 
1) Ongoing meetings with parents, and among parents, teachers, and 
administrators, about curricula/pedagogic issues and concerns, and building and 
strengthening structures that incorporate parents into decision-making around these 
2) Ongoing meetings with parents, and among parents and school staff, about a 
wide range of school policy issues (for example, about drop-off and pick-up 
policies; about priorities re: “enrichment” programs; about the role of school 
aides and paraprofessionals; about methods of ongoing communication with the 
parent body; about critical social issues facing the school community, such as 
sexism or racism or homophobia; and about hiring and evaluating teachers and 
other staff), and building and strengthening structures that incorporate 
parents into decision-making around these issues
3) Organizing and helping to coordinate parent workshops about a wide range 
of issues relevant to parents and their children. (These might include 
workshops on helping children with their homework; dealing with loss and divorce; 
maintaining our languages and cultures; building parent leadership; mediation and 
conflict resolution; literacy and language development; alternative and 
affordable forms of health care; among many others.) 
4) Meeting with and becoming familiar with what community-based groups are 
doing and how they can become connected to parents and serve as resources to the 
school community;
5) Sharing and disseminating information to parents about a wide-range of 
school and community issues;
6) Developing parent leadership by broadening and expanding the sense of the 
breadth and depth of the contributions parents can make and by building 
relationships with parents that can help create the foundation to integrate their k
nowledge and experience into the life of the school. The school culture often 
promotes very narrow and limited roles for parent “involvement.” We must 
affirm and build upon the knowledge and background of every parent in the school 
community. Parents come with a wealth of experience that can be a valuable 
resource but that are too often overlooked or minimized. (One of the countless 
examples of how parents can be integrated into the life of the school is the 
innovative way in which teaching math skills that draw upon parents’ life 
experiences have been successfully integrated into a curriculum.)
7) Developing parent leadership by consistently making sure that the broadest 
group of parents is involved in the decision-making processes at all levels 
and being vigilant that leadership is not assumed only by those with greater 
leisure time, resources, and/or more similar backgrounds to the staff and 
administration at the school. Throughout this process and as we engage in parent 
organizing and building new parent leaders, we must be certain that we recognize 
the impact that racism, sexism, and/or discrimination based on economic 
background have had within our society and in our schools and fight against these 
systems of oppression that are so detrimental to our children and families. 
* To make certain that this work can be done effectively and meaningfully, it 
is critical that the coordinator be available for meetings with individual 
parents and with small groups of parents in and outside the school to 
accommodate parents’ schedules and demands. Meetings should also be held in the 
languages spoken by the parents.  Often, parents are told they’re not concerned enough 
because they don’t come to meetings, when, in fact, their schedules don’t 
permit it or, as is too often the case, because the meetings only take place in 
English, or because they receive clear messages that their voices are not as 
important as others.  
A reciprocal, honest, and valuable relationship between parents and school 
staff can only take place if the concerns and “voices” of the parents 
(particularly of those parents whose voices are too often marginalized) are truly 
represented by the parent coordinator and if these voices are integrated into the 
decision-making processes at the school.  Different perspectives that are 
independent and freely expressed will only strengthen, rather than weaken the 
building of a strong school community that is able to best serve our children.  The 
parent coordinator could play a significant role in helping to create, build, 
and strengthen a school community that will best meet the needs of all our