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Staying Engaged in Schools Over the Summer

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School is out. Summer is here. So, it's time to race to the beach, or the mountains. But some parents are thinking about Race to the Top.

Myrdin Thompson of Louisville, Ky., is one. An uber-active mom recently honored by President Barack Obama as a Champion of Change for her involvement in education, Thompson contacted a local school board member to see whether Jefferson County Public Schools would be applying for Race to the Top funding in the new district-grant competition.

While the board has yet to reach a decision, Thompson believes parents need to stay in touch with school district leadership about pending educational issues—especially on ones, like Race to the Top, that have fall deadlines.

"Listen, it's summer. It's very easy for us to take a summer break, too. What happens is, we take a break, then come back in fall and, particularly with the Race to Top application—which is due in October—we find out obligations and commitments may have been made on our behalf that we haven't agreed on," Thompson says. "What's much more respectful is to engage me in the process to help make my district stronger, rather than telling me what I can do."

Parents and families who don't feel comfortable asking district personnel directly about Race to the Top, or other pending issues over the summer, can contact their dedicated parent group leaders in PTA or PTO to see if they know anything, or can find out, about what decisions are likely to be made before school starts again.

"Summer's even a good time for parents to do their homework about how their schools are governed," Thompson says.

Parents whose districts will be applying for Race to the Top funding can ask: "How will you engage families in this process? Will there be meetings? Surveys? Is there going to be a parent/family member on the application committee, if one is convening? Who would they be tapping into? It's important to know how they (districts) are going to connect with parents, because it is part of the application process," says Thompson, who is also the regional director for the central states of the National Family Engagement Alliance, which provides resources and support to educate, equip, and mobilize individuals, families, and organizations to ensure student success.

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