by Jose Gonzalez

At P.S. 73, while chair of the Title I Committee and PTA President, I worked to improve the effectiveness of how we spent our Title I funds and to increase collaboration between the administration, teachers and parents. When I first came to the school, there was little collaboration between school staff and parents, many of whom spoke little English and could not be present at the school during school hours due to their work schedules. I started with a conversation with the principal, Ms. Bueno, who also wanted to increase parent involvement. I had identified parents’ needs for more information on what was going on in school and the curriculum, and with the principal’s support, began working with the teachers on ideas for events that could address these needs and that could be developed by parents and staff together. Working as a team of parents and teachers, we created two such events: Family Reading Night and Saturday Academy for Parents and Children.

For Family Reading Night, parents and teachers designed a museum in the gym — we set up tables with many science projects around the gym, cardboard animal figures such as dinosaurs and other creatures, a galaxy map I drew, and some global earths for the kids to look at. We had all these things ready for the kids to work on after they finished with story readings. We set up a blanket in the middle of the museum and the kids gathered in their pajamas and listened to stories read by community volunteers we had recruited, including two medical professionals and an assemblywoman as well as our own principal. While the children were occupied, teachers held workshops for parents in four classrooms, focusing on topics such as how to help with homework, understanding Common Core, what a school day curriculum looks like and more. Afterwards, the parents rejoined their children in the gym were there were tables set up with projects and resource information.

The Saturday Academy for Parents and Children (also called Family Literacy Day) was another event designed to meet parents’ need for information while strengthening the school community as a whole. Parents and teachers came up with the curriculum for the academy together and the set up was similar to that for Family Reading Night. Six teachers donated their time, coming to the school on Saturday. Four teachers (two in each of two classrooms) instructed parents on the Common Core and helping your child at home. At the same time, two teachers helped out in the gym where the children walked around viewing displays parents had set up and listening to volunteer readers. We ran the Saturday Academy twice while I was at P.S. 73, and I will never forget the positive feedback I received — from parents who loved spending time getting to know their teachers and finally felt like they had good insight into what was going on in school; and from teachers who were impressed by the parents participation and the close conversation they had with the parents. They all wanted to continue this effort.