The activist organization ACTION is calling for the education and empowerment of parents with students in the city’s schools.
The group met Tuesday at the Elizabeth Missionary Baptist Church.
Pastor J. Dwayne Heard, also a leader in The Alliance for Congregational Transformation Influencing Our Neighborhoods, said in order to empower parents, they need to be informed of their roles, rights and responsibilities.
“That is the weakest link: our parents,” the Rev. Mr. Heard said.
He first learned the concept and effect of organizing parents while attending the African-American Leaders Caucus conference. There caucus members examined a New York City neighborhood that focused on parents and saw improvement in their students’ academic performance.
“One of the key things they were able to do is organize parents,” Heard said.
He said parenting is the “front line” when it comes to education.
Parents, board of education members, a city councilman, attorneys and people with and without children in the district attended, providing input. But the common theme was unity toward addressing the root of the education problem in the city, not addressing test scores.
The state had placed Youngstown schools in academic emergency and formed the Academic Distress Commission in January 2010 after failing to make adequate yearly progress for four consecutive years. New state report cards are expected to be released next week.
“We need to start focusing on what we all disagree on,” said Cecil Monroe, 42 and a parent with three children in Youngstown schools.
One problem singled out is the lack of disseminated information for parents about programs of which their children can be a part.
For that, Mr. Heard said the community needed to turn to social networking, texting, emails or via the pulpit.
“If you want information disseminated in our community, you need to go to the church or to the mosque,” he said.
T.J. Rogers, who the city just swore in as 2nd Ward councilman and an East High School graduate, attended and said the focus on parent involvement has shifted away.
“We need to teach our young parents how to be parents,” he said. “Parents are the foundation. If you don’t have a good foundation, you don’t have much.”