Parents discuss public school

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Photo by Pooja Salhotra.

Over 100 New Haven Public School district supervisors, parents and students gathered in East Rock School’s cafeteria Wednesday evening to learn about a supplemental education program and to voice their concerns about the district’s public school education system.

Through Title I — the largest federal education program in the country — the U.S. government appropriates billions of dollars each year to provide supplemental educational services to low-income students and those failing to meet state academic standards. This year, Title I granted $9 million to NHPS, and that money is funding programs in 25 schools throughout the district. At Wednesday’s district-wide annual meeting, parents learned about one mandate of the Title I program: parent involvement.

“The Title I law recognizes the importance of partnerships between parents and schools and sees parent involvement as a crucial aspect of student achievement,” Title I Parent Liaison Parris Lee said. “Parents must be involved in their students’ education in order for children to succeed.”

In a PowerPoint presentation, Lee introduced parents to the goals of Title I and talked about the after-school programs, tutors, books and other school equipment funded by the program. Title I focuses on math, science and literacy, offering informational and hands-on workshops for both parents and students outside the normal school day.

Several parents interviewed said that before the meeting, they were not aware of what Title I was, but that they decided to attend the event to find out how they could get more involved in their children’s education. Teresa Bethea, who found out about Title I through a summer workshop, said that she thinks parents can greatly influence their children through involvement in education.

“Parents need to be active in their kids lives. It helps reduce crime and ensures that kids have stuff to do after school,” Bethea said.

After the Title I presentation, New Haven Public School Superintendent Garth Harries ’95 took up the microphone for his “Superintendent Night Out,” an initiative he started this school year to learn about parents’ ideas and concerns about education.

“It’s mostly about listening,” he said.

After introducing himself, Harries asked the audience to consider three questions about New Haven public school education: What are the district’s strengths? What concerns do you have? How do we keep this conversation going?

The audience spent 10 minutes discussing these questions in groups, bringing up issues ranging from bullying and school uniforms to vocational training and parent outreach. One parent, Twana Hargett Taft, said that many parents are not involved in their children’s education because they are not even aware of Title I. She said the school district must do a better job of advertising the program to parents at all schools. Other parents agreed, pointing out how social media can be used to enhance parent outreach.

Sundiata Keitazulu, a former candidate in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary and a parent, said that the biggest issue with New Haven Public School education is that it does not prepare children for jobs. Schools need to be teaching students skills that they can apply beyond an academic level, he said.

“Every student is not going to college, and you have to address that issue,” Keitazulu said. “We should start working with Yale University and start an apprenticeship program that teaches vocational skills and prepares our children for the real world.”

The next Superintendent Night Out will be at Columbus School on Oct. 29.

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