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Last-minute fixes for the parent group meeting

Today's story looks at the concerns the District Parent Coordinating Council has regarding services that central office has traditionally provided for its meetings, but withdrew for this year -- along with concerns about various other things, including a larger question about how the district has been spending its federal Title I funds.

As the story notes, district administrators informed the parent group that they would no longer be receiving child care, dinner, videotaping, security and other support services for their meetings this year.

Rally Group leaders believe this may be in retaliation for their criticism of the district, including the one-day boycott in May. "It was almost like sabotage," DPCC Vice President Sam Radford said.

School Board President Lou Petrucci says the change resulted from an internal audit in the spring that found Title I funds being spent on things not allowed under Title I.

Whatever the reason, as the parent group was heading into its first meeting of the year Tuesday evening, group leaders were wondering how they were going to pull it off without those services in place.

Just as the meeting was about to start, Interim Superintendent Amber Dixon arrived. She put in place videotaping (the DPCC meetings are broadcast on public access cable), child care and security. Radford paid for the pizza and wings himself, but Dixon told him he would be reimbursed.

Group leaders were glad those services were put in place Tuesday night.

"That stuff was normally always done. Now all of a sudden, we're fighting to get what we always had, rather than building on where we were last year. We're going backwards," Radford said. "So we can't celebrate the superintendent coming in here and giving us what we always had. We're not celebrating that we got basic necessities."

At the DPCC's first meeting last year, the parent representative from every school was given a blue binder with loads of information, including the group's bylaws, meeting schedule, agendas and minutes, and leadership training schedules -- all prepared by central office staff who are paid to provide support to parents.

This year, there were no binders.

"We had nothing," Radford said. "This year, we went from this [pointing to a binder] to zero. The question is, are we going to have this at our next meeting?"

- Mary Pasciak

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