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Information Is Power

This summer we are looking at ways parents can most effectively advocate for their children and work together to ensure the best possible education for Gwinnett students.

Greetings, Gwinnettians. I'd like to talk with you about a big idea, one of the biggest and best we've ever had in this country: Public education.

Despite the challenges it presents, I'm convinced that public education is still worth all the time and effort it takes to make it work. I couldn't run for District III on the Gwinnett County school board if I didn't believe that an educated population is vital to the success of our region, our state and our nation as whole. Because we depend on this shared goal, we must work together to make the system strong, build successful programs and solve problems.

As my bio shows, I have the skills needed to identify areas that need change. That doesn't always mean I have the answers. It does mean I need your help. We all have a responsibility to stay informed and contribute ideas. Our leaders, likewise, have a responsibility to listen and to be forthcoming with information we need to intelligently assess decisions. To me, that's what transparency in government is all about.

I often hear a sense of frustration from parents who read about things like graduation rates and want to have a voice, but don't know how to make a difference. So, this summer let's talk about ways to empower parents to advocate for their children.

First, it's important to understand that effective graduation focus doesn't start at 9th grade: it starts as soon as your child enters school -- even before. Your child's education is shaped by parents, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders. These groups work together to ensure the best possible outcome for your child. The management and coordination of this educational "family" is the job of your local school council, which makes critical decisions that determine your child's educational path.

Local School Councils

School councils are mandated by law at every public school in Georgia. Councils are comprised of the principal, teachers, parents and other community members, in accordance with each school's bylaws. In each council, parents must constitute a majority the members. The school council works with the principal to craft school policy and can even be involved in the selection process for new administrators. Equally important, school board members are required to respond to requests for information from school councils.

I served as a school council member when my children were in school, and I can tell you this is a tremendous opportunity to make a difference. Because council members are often elected to staggered two-year terms, elections may not be held every year. In fact, council elections may float under the radar a bit so parents may not be aware of them. If you think this would be a good fit for you, talk to your child's school principal. He or she can provide you with application forms, relevant dates and updates to Local School Council rules. Regardless, the council is in place to hear and respond to your concerns as a parent so get to know who they are and when they meet.

That is one crucial way that you, as a parent, can connect and make a difference. Those of you who have concerns regarding graduation rates, please visit the District III Resource Center section of my website for a detailed analysis and discuss your concerns with your local school council this Fall. You might ask how they plan to address the key indicators and differences in graduation rates across subgroups like gender and economic advantage.

Stay tuned over the summer for more. Should I be elected, I want you to feel comfortable looking to me for whatever you need to make informed choices. Even now, I hope that you will visit the District III Resource Center area of my website for a variety of helpful documents. Also, please comment on the site, so we can know what to post that would be helpful.

This post was originally published on votejenfalk.com and was republished by permission.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Amanda Helmstetter June 13, 2012 at 06:26 PM
I'm not so sure that our School Board officials realize THEIR obligation to the school council, and that those who serve are not "just parents" that pick up the phone or send an e-mail -- they are those parents who WANT to be involved. I'm so glad you are running for office -- I look foward to working with you after the election. It will be a nice change of pace from the current atmosphere of being kept at arms length.
R++ One of the Famous Dacula Crew June 14, 2012 at 03:34 AM
This is a serious seal of approval right here .... noted .... OP congratulations
Harry Dorfman June 14, 2012 at 05:50 AM
So what is the point.. you made a post to announce you are running for school board and then gave a description of some obscure committee that has no effect. Now we know your name?
L.Vlad June 14, 2012 at 03:57 PM
Unless you have taken the time and energy to particpate in what you call "some obscure committee" I don't think you can make the statement that there is no effect. As chairman of my daughter's school council I believe that if you have a group of dedicated parents you can really shake things up for the better. I believe in the quote "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead. I urge more parents to get involved in public school.
Amanda Helmstetter June 14, 2012 at 10:26 PM
Some obscure committee that has no effect? I'm confused by your comment. That is the whole point - the School Councils are NOT some obscure committee that has no effect. They have LOTS of power -- and it is not always used because people don't realize they have the power. And there are members of the current regime that would like to have people continue to think exactly as you do so that they are not challenged.

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