St. John board members discuss parenting scores for schools

Published 12:00 am Monday, August 8, 2005

Retreat develops ideas for increased involvement by parents in schools


Staff Reporter

LAPLACE — As ideas were exchanged at the recent St. John the Baptist School Board retreat last weekend, the board members asked themselves and each other about one particularly interesting idea: Can the school district actually require parents to be involved in their child’s schooling?

Russ Wise, board member for District 8, introduced the brainstorm in the form of a “parental participation score,” a grade of sorts to be given to the school’s parents at the end of the year, along with the school performance score.

“We can change the teachers, the principles, the textbooks,” Wise said, “We can’t do a darned thing about getting parents involved.”

Wise said he believes if the parent’s scores are implemented, and it is put up against the school performance scores, there will be a direct correlation.

With support from the other members, Superintendent Michael Coburn used an example of why the theory might be true in John L. Ory Magnet, located in LaPlace.

Ory is consistently the best performing public school in the parish, with recent LEAP scores showing an extremely low failure rate, and a high percentage of students who worked above-average. “We have total, complete parental involvement at that school,” Coburn said.

Board Vice President Patrick Sanders suggested each school would develop a contract parents could sign which would require they dedicate a certain amounts of hours to school matters. In the event the parent does not follow through, they could be penalized in some way.

Wise, whose son is a former student at Ory, said after the meeting that the school does have parents sign a contract, but it would not be feasible to do it in all schools.

“It’s common to do things like that at private or parochial schools, but not all public schools can do it,” Wise said.

However, even at Ory, Wise said the school cannot technically force the parents to do anything. “It’s more of a gentleman’s agreement,” Wise said, “It raises the awareness of the parents at Ory that they are a vital part of the team.”

More ideas came to get the parents better involved, with member Clarence Triche suggesting children doing skits at the PTO meetings, to have parents feel obligated to come, and member Russell Jack suggested talking to the parents in churches.

Member Elexia Henderson and Wise also pointed out parents may not feel welcome, because secretaries or school representatives could possibly be rude.

School Board President Gerald Keller said parents should feel free to call members of the school board or be able to leave a comment card at the school on the reception they received.

Other ideas with community involvement were a public opinion survey. “You don’t know what to fix, if you don’t know what’s broken, Wise said.