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Parental involvement, expectations key

Dr. Sylvester Perez1

September 17, 2012

Dear SAISD Staff,

Tom Brokaw is the author of five bestsellers and is a regular contributor to the op-ed pages of major news outlets, as well as television and journals. In his book “The Time of Our Lives,” he attempts to begin the conversation about America’s legacy and its destiny.  Brokaw states that the time to build the future is now and that we should consider “how we respond, now and going forward, to the manifest challenges facing all of us in the brief time we have on this precious planet.”

Mr. Brokaw’s book makes several references to education and its role in shaping the future in America. There are examples and stories from his book that highlight and relate to all schools, particularly SAISD.

While covering the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea, Brokaw was surprised to see uniformed students hunched over their textbooks, studying by flashlight at 6:00 a.m., waiting for the doors to open at 6:30 a.m.

In the span of three decades, South Korea had become an industrial and electronic leader and the fifth-largest producer of automobiles in the world. The country’s rise did not go unnoticed. When Brokaw interviewed a Russian member of young intellectuals that Mikhail Gorbachev promoted in a last-ditch effort to save communism in the Soviet Empire, Brokaw asked him when did he realize that the Russian system was failing. His response: “When the South Koreans came to Moscow with all of their prosperity, their automobile business and electronics. They did that in such a short time, and here we were, a much larger nation with more resources, still so far behind.”

More recent, Brokaw reminded U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan about his experience in South Korea. Duncan recalled that President Obama had asked President Lee Myung-bak what was the biggest challenge he faced in education. The South Korean president answered that the parents were too demanding.What a lesson for all of us!  Almost every school in America recognizes parental involvement as a key component of a successful school. Most schools and districts identify parental involvement as a goal, an objective and an integral part of a plan for school improvement.  How successful are we in accomplishing this reachable goal?  What are we doing to engage those parents who are not currently engaged in their child’s education?

Realizing that many efforts are being made to reach out to parents, we must review, and perhaps develop, new strategies for parental engagement.  A review of what we’ve been doing requires us to ask ourselves the Dr. Phil question:  “And how is that working for us?” If the current practices do not encourage our parents and families to partner with us in their students’ educational experience, then let’s initiate a sincere effort to change and improve in this area. There are many schools in our district that have a high level of parental engagement.  Perhaps we can examine some of our own successes and replicate them at other campuses within our District. 

It’s about continuing that transformation into a welcoming school culture at every one of our SAISD campuses. Truly, it’s all about attitude – our attitude as educators.  Let’s remember that if we are serious about customer-friendliness that means that our students, parents, and community members are our customers.  As an old mentor once said, “it’s their children and their money.”  

Lastly, parents also have a responsibility.  Do American parents have it within themselves to demand as much from the classroom as they do from the cheerleading sponsor, Little League or soccer coach? Will they visit our schools even when there is not a football game? Will they be engaged or involved? Will they understand that it’s our job as adults to “prepare our children for life, and not prepare life for our children?”

Best regards,
Dr. Sylvester Perez
Interim Superintendent

"Ability is what you're capable of doing. Motivation determines what you do. Attitude determines how well you do it."

Lou Holtz

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