Just yesterday I had breakfast with a friend from church who is also a parent of a musician in a neighboring school. He knew that I had launched AMP a little over a year ago. He wanted to know how it was going and what the biggest challenge was for me. Immediately I said, “Our biggest challenge is getting parents and teachers to see the need for the information and resources we have for them before the need becomes a crisis.”
You’ve seen the headlines about the economy and “failing” schools. We believe parents need to step up to get involved long before your local school board begins cutting costs…whether it’s with a scalpel, or with something worse! Think it can’t happen to you? Well, come on in and sit a spell…maybe it’s not too late for your school music program after all.
What we want to prevent is a reactive scenario. When the crises hit (and many more will hit before we are done), parents and teachers scurry feverishly to find the solutions to Save Their Programs. By that time, the pitch is deafening and we have a group of parents who resemble more a pack of angry wolves than calm, educated, and powerful citizens who are ultimately the decision makers about what our kids have or do not have in their educations. We have to find a way to be proactive, and engage and educate parents with valuable information prior to the crises hitting.
One simple step is to form a committee of parents whose responsibility is to attend every school board meeting and work session they hold. I imagine, like our district, your board probably meets two times a month and may have one or two “work sessions” in between those meetings. If you had a committee of 5-6 people, you could break this down to where each person only had to attend one meeting every other month. Their purpose would be to listen for those subjects or themes which might lead to concern over budgets that affect our music programs and the teachers associated with the arts. This committee would then report back to the board of the parent organization, which would be able to deploy resources when a larger presence or communication with the school board becomes necessary.
We must remember that the elected school board acts as an agent for each of us and the interests of our kids, and that our efforts and communications with them must be professional and appropriate at all times. We must continue to be insistent on greater transparency by our school boards. The first step to this is simply "showing up" and introducing yourself as parent who is there in support of your district’s music and arts programs .
Even if you cannot be there in person, there’s still more you can do. Write a letter to your school board. For extra points, cc it to your local newspaper or website. And of course, don’t forget that school board members are elected by the people, for the people. A great way to begin is to research local school board candidates, and, of course don't forget to VOTE for what you believe!