Parents as Partners

February 17, 2023 |

“Sweeping change isn’t possible without active parent support.  This support will need to be earned though dialog and welcoming into the reform effort.  The only an only smart process decision I made as superintendent was reaching out to parents of students with special needs and inviting them to be parents for progress.  They, better than anyone else, understood the need for change, and they vocally championed the shift to best practices.”

Nathan Levenson, Six Shifts to Improve Special Education and Other Interventions: A Commonsense Approach for School Leaders, p. 197.

Often, our parents do not have a meaningful input in the decisions that the Board and the administration make. Studies universally show that parent involvement and commitment to the school district creates better outcomes for the students. I believe that the lack of meaningful input for parents is at least part of what is bringing down the achievement of the students. 

Nathan Levenson was hired by the Columbia Public Schools to conduct a  systematic study to review CPS’s current regular and special education services, programs, procedures, and staffing for serving students who struggle.  He presented the final report at the board meeting on February 13, 2023.

That report can be found here:

Mr. Levenson mentioned several times in the presentation about the special education report that parents need meaningful input into the operations of the district.

I have been advocating for just such a solution.

I believe that one of the ways we can better ensure special education students feel safe, welcomed, and have the resources they need is to constitute a permanent special education parents advisory committee (or SEPAC) so that parents have a seat at the table when the district and the board are making decisions. This committee should be constituted of parents from all schools to meet with the board and the superintendent to provide feedback and insight for emerging issues in the district, and to make recommendations and facilitate strategies to better serve our community.

A parent advisory committee is a group to provide input into the operations and management of the district.  The purpose of the committee is to address systemic issues rather than individual ones.

While the parents advisory committee should be constituted as an official standing committee of the board, it should not be district driven. Rather, this committee should be made exclusively of parents and be completely parent driven.  

The parent advisory committee can offer solutions to issues that matter to the students and parents, assisting the district in making decisions related to special education programs and services.

To benefit the student achievement, the parent advisory committee would provide direct input, advice, and guidance to the superintendent and the board on policies, programs and practices, emerging issues, and improving district culture. A parents advisory committee can help identify unmet needs and improve outcomes for the students. 

I believe that working to form a permanent special education parents advisory committee will improve operations of the district.  The first step would be to create a steering committee to work to form the policies and procedures to constitute this percent committee.

If elected, I will work to ensure that the district is listening to all of its stakeholders, including our parents.

Paid for by Vote Paul Harper | Samantha Green, Treasurer
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