Starting Nov. 3, children will not be the only ones taking classes in New Haven public schools.
Top city officials, including Mayor John DeStefano Jr. and Superintendent Reginald Mayo, met at Gateway Community College Wednesday to discuss the launch of Parent University — a program designed to teach parents how to help their children succeed in school. Workshops for Parent University, which according to a press release include “reading with your child” and “fun ways to teach math,” will take place this November at Gateway’s newly-opened campus on Church St. from 8 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. The event is free for New Haven Public School parents.
“Parents are a child’s first and most important teachers. It is imperative that families have the knowledge, tools and resources they need to support their children through school and life,” DeStefano said. “Parent University is one way New Haven public schools [are] reaching out to parents and families to provide that support. It is a vital effort and one that must be sustained and expanded.”
Parent University’s inaugural event will include a series of classes ranging from navigating the public school system to planning for college. There will also be non-academic workshops such as avoiding cyber-bullying and abuse. Additionally, parents will have the option to enroll in classes geared toward advancing their professional lives, including resume writing and successful job searching.
The idea is to provide a “variety of different workshops that really works the gamut for parents,” said Susan Weisselberg, chief of Wraparound Services, which provides social and emotional counseling for students enrolled in New Haven’s public school system.
“The district expects about 350 parents to attend the kickoff event,” said Abbe Smith, director of communications for New Haven public schools. In an effort to be as accomodating to parents’ needs as possible, organizers said Parent University’s launch will offer free parking and childcare services. Parents who have preregistered for the event will be able to drop their children off at the nearby Cooperative Arts and Humanities High School where they will take part in educational and recreational activities through day.
Beyond classes and workshops, parents will also hear a keynote speech from Dr. Karen Mapp, the director of the Education Policy and Management Program at Harvard University and a New Haven native. Mapp also co-authored “Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family–School Partnerships,” published by The New Press in 2007.
Smith said Parent University is a key component of school reform in New Haven because involved parents are an integral part of the success of a school district.
“The studies show that the more involved parents are in education, the better students will do in school, the better they will do in college, the better jobs they will find and the higher quality of life they will have,” she added.
While individual workshops aimed at encouraging parent and community involvement in schools have been held in the city before, the New Haven Public School district hopes Parent University will grow into a larger, more permanent initiative.
Gateway Community College, which officially opened last August, is located at 20 Church St.