As a mother of two black males, I have always been passionate about my sons’ futures. It is very important to me that they reach their full potential which includes a strong educational foundation. So, I’ve always been the “involved” parent. During their early years we read books before bed, I looked for the best neighborhood schools my money could buy when purchasing a home, we did homework together, we prepared for the next school year during the summer, we did standardized test preparation at home in addition to the preparation they had at school – we did everything that everyone says you are supposed to do. But one year, my level of involvement blew up in my face and totally changed the way I viewed public education.
It was my eldest son’s fourth grade year. He had a young teacher who was in her second year of teaching and had the responsibility of ensuring that her twenty eight or so fourth graders would pass their first high stakes test. She found my level of involvement intimidating and instead of including me, she pushed me out. At the time, I was clueless to the dynamics that created the vicious animosity I began to receive, not just from her but from my other son’s third grade teachers all the way up the chain of command to the assistant superintendent at the time. By the end of the school year, and many school building level meetings later, she began to realize I had no intention of attacking her or jeopardizing her work, and I began to understand that there were pressures beyond the both of us that cause parents and teachers to be primed for division, to be deeply rooted in an “us versus them” mentality.
I later completed my master’s degree in public administration with a keen interest in the institution of public education. I did my final report on the impact of the charter school movement on East Baton Rouge Parish School District. It was through that work I began realizing the charter school movement which had been characterized as the saving grace of public education was actually contributing to the further demise of an already destitute institution.
Not long after, during the Jindal administration’s massive education overhaul in 2011, I got involved in Parents Across America. It has been empowering to join with others who are equally committed to quality education for all children. Additionally, my life experience has shown me how imperative it is for parents and educators to re-establish communion with one another, keep one another informed, and stand in solidarity with one another. That’s what Parents Across America Baton Rouge is all about.
Beginning now, PAA members like myself and other community members will be sharing our personal stories, thoughts, and concerns about education. Please join us by re-blogging our stories, sharing your own stories, and exchanging information with us.
Dawn D. Collins, MPA
Founding Member of Parents Across America Baton Rouge