Buffalo School Superintendent James Harris is hoping to attract up to 1,000 parents at a summit scheduled for Nov. 2 to consider a wide range of issues.
Getting more parents involved in city schools is at the heart of the conference. Harris has said he wants to establish parent groups at each of the city's 72 schools. Solid groups now exist at most, but not all of the schools.
The superintendent said he is committed to providing parents with a number of ways of getting involved. "There's a place for parent involvement on multiple levels, from involvement in policy and curriculum down to volunteering, because we have different parents with different skills and different interests," he said.
Many parent activists want to play a larger role than what's now afforded them, which is mainly volunteer work. The district last year established site-based management teams that, in theory, provide parents and staff a voice in the decision-making process at the school level.
But Barbara Sullivan, a parent representative of a district committee that drafted the plan for site-based management and who now monitors its progress, said progress has been uneven.
"There are (only) a handful of schools where it's working well," said Ms. Sullivan, co-chairwoman of United Parents, a parent organization.
"The district has to show parents it has a true commitment to shared decision-making. The only way parents are going to buy in at this point is if the district is behind it in a big way."
The summit will be held from 8 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in the Buffalo Convention Center. Harris wants at least five parents from each school but is hoping for more. To promote attendance, the district will provide child care on site and transportation for parents who need it.
Harris will deliver a keynote address outlining his philosophy on parent involvement. After that, parents will break up into workshops on six topics, including:
Establishing effective parent groups.
Improving the lines of communication between schools and parents.
The role of parents and other players in site-based management.
The state's new academic standards and curriculum development.
Fostering parent involvement.
Dealing with the district's bureaucracy and regulations.
Registration forms are available in schools or by calling 851-3561 or 851-3600. The district is asking parents to register by Oct. 23.