Working as a network since 1999, the Boston Parent Organizing Network (BPON) has been helping struggling students by supporting effective parent involvement, and increasing the amount and quality of resources to meet the needs of children.
As Caprice Taylor Mendez, Executive Director of BPON says, “Only through partnerships with families can the school system hope to help all students reach the highest level of achievement.”
One of BPON’s most important campaigns is its role as catalyst in the creation of a Boston Public School Deputy Superintendent for Family and Community Engagement, and a Family and Community Engagement Coordinator (FCOC) position, that they want to see in each of the system’s 112 schools. Through BPON’S persistence, the Boston Public School System has hired over 30 Family and Community Engagement Coordinators charged with building connections between home, school and community, towards the goal of student success. The remaining challenge is to ensure this position remains a strong voice for the community and parents, and not just another job in a large bureaucracy.
Jurett Weathers is an African American single mother whose third child was diagnosed with a form of autism. Like many parents of the nearly thirteen percent of U.S. school children identified as having special needs, Jurett faced many difficulties trying to get the necessary services for her son. She felt the frustration of so many members of her community who had no advocates in the school system. A lot of parents didn’t feel welcome at school.
Jurett became active in BPON’s work to place Family Coordinators in all the public schools in Boston. Four years after the Initiative was passed, twenty five percent of Boston’s schools have Family Coordinators. She credits a lot of the improvement in her son’s reading, to the change she sees in the culture of the school. Today, Jurett says that the understanding of what parents can really do is starting to change at the highest administrative level.
After much work Jurett says that, “I think parents now understand it is more than just helping your kids do homework, it is more than just making sure your child goes to school everyday. It is being involved in the school, and understanding exactly what is going on in the school. It is so important because this involves your child’s future.”