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The Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership Opens Many Doors

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Julie Pile is a GCIPL (Governor's Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership) graduate of the class of 2012. She is currently working on her project with GCIPL Fellow Partner, Felicia Anderson. Their project is called Side by Side and encompasses training parents and community members to be writing mentors to third grade students. Julie is currently serving in her second year as President of the Stephens Elementary PTA in the Boone County Schools.

GCIPL is six days of intensive training for parents who want to be engaged partners with their school(s). I first learned about GCIPL from a friend who was currently attending the training and she told me that I "had" to do it. Little did I know how that one conversation would be the start of opening the doors to opportunities of engagement that as a parent I would never have thought was possible.

GCIPL isn't just about the classes you attend, it is much more. It is about learning how to talk to the teachers and principals in their language. It is about showing the teachers that you care so deeply about education that you personally are willing to spend the time to learn about it AND take action to help them in educating our kids. GCIPL is about learning about all the resources available either through organizations or individuals with whom you can network. GCIPL is about learning how and of who to ask questions, so rather than complaining, you can become engaged and help make changes in order to make our students more successful.

The first and foremost door that GCIPL opened was communication and the development of a partnership in the education of my children with their teachers. While attending the session on effective teaching methodologies I recognized that my daughter's teacher, Miss Hughes, was on the leading edge. She was going outside the traditional comfort zone of traditional teaching methods to becoming a facilitator. It is very hard for a teacher to give up control in their classroom and I had great respect for what she was doing. The children were learning to think, not what to think. I noticed a huge increase in my daughter's critical thinking skill during the last school year. As a parent who had attended the GCIPL training and recognize what she was doing. I would constantly praise and encourage the teacher. The positive reinforcements went a long way in boosting that teacher's self-confidence and renewed energy in her classroom. During the common core sessions, we read and understand the standards and how each grade's targets build upon each other. I was very excited when the newsletters and homework started coming home from school with the standards noted on them. This was a great tool to help me as a parent to be able to make sure my kids are at the points where they need to be at each one of the standards. As a parent, that is MY responsibility, not the teachers.

The next step after attending the six days of GCIPL training is to develop a project based on data that will:

1. Increase student achievement

2. Involve parent engagement

3. Has a long lasting impact, i.e. is not a onetime event

After studying our data my Stephens GCIPL Partner, Felicia Anderson and I spoke with our principal, Mr. Jim Detwiler, Instructional Coach Amy Mitchnell and a few teachers. We determined the area which needed to be worked upon was writing and we needed to start with the third grade. Writing is not tested upon until fifth grade but the groundwork begins well before fifth grade and so we settled upon working with third grade students. Our project is to train parents in the 6+1 writing traits methodology, the parents would write their own pieces, bring them back for a second session where they would be trained to conference with the students using their own pieces as an example. They would then begin to meet weekly with the students to work on their writing pieces. Parents will now be able to help supplement conferencing time for the teachers at school enabling more students to get one on one help with their writing.

When we started down this writing project path, we did not realize the steam rolling effects. Since we began this journey, a team of administrators and teachers have attended a national writing workshop with another school in our district. The two school team has then held combined training sessions for their schools. This was when the second door was opened, As GCIPL parents, we were invited to attend those training sessions and work alongside the teachers, that is TRUE partnership in education! We are hopeful that our project will be successful this year, will be able to continue next year, roll out to other grades and possibly other schools in the district. I am very excited because the trend of parents and teachers attending training together is going to continue with the new class of Stephens GCIPL parents. They have determined their project to center upon math and will be attending a conference along side a team of teachers in developing a new math curriculum at our school for next year.

Using technology is becoming a standard in our schools and I as a technology person am quite interested in the roll-out. During one of our GCIPL sessions, called Roundtables, representatives from various organizations locally and across the state make themselves available for you to ask questions and to determine if they can provide resources to assist you in your projects. During one of my roundtable discussions with the President of the School Board Association which turned towards technology, I learned that each school district should have a District Technology Committee and there should be parent representation on it. Our principal made some phone calls the next Monday morning and we learned the committee for our district was being formed and they would welcome a parent representative. Hence door number three was opened. This committee has taken upon the task of updating the Acceptable Use Policy for the roll-out of bring-your-own wireless devices. We have also helped the District Technology Team develop a centralized screen in Campus Portal for the recording of technology information for each student, thereby eliminating some processing inefficiencies in the previous system.

The most recent door to open was unexpected but I am very excited about. Boone County Schools Administration, especially Superintendent Dr. Randy Poe has shown their support for the GCIPL program and parents. They have attended GCIPL training sessions including brainstorming at times with the parents. Boone County is one of the few districts to recognize the commitment of the most recent GCIPL graduates at a School Board Meeting. Most recently, the district invited all Boone County GCIPL Fellows to attend a meeting to give input on education in Boone County. This group will meet quarterly will help the district define rubrics around service and project based learning activates along with providing input into the District's Five Year Strategic Plan. As a GCIPL Fellow, my hope is that the district will harness the power of the 42 already committed, trained and engaged parents to work on district wide projects and make Boone County students the most successful in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

If you feel like you are ready to knock on the door and make the step across the threshold to become an informed and engaged parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle or any adult who is concerned about our children's education, I encourage you to check out the Governor's Commonwealth Institute of Kentucky's webpage on The Prichard Committee's website or contact me. My door is always open.

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