By EMILY R. WEST
Superintendent Mike Looney sat at the head of the table, parents flanking him on either side, acting as a scribe, of sorts, helping the district establish a parent’s bill of rights.
Throughout the summer, Looney has been helping the district’s PTO Leadership Council write what they have dubbed the “Parents Bill of Rights.” Blown up on a screen, Looney would go back and edit language while others worked to further honed the message of what they wanted for not only themselves, but for the parents of 38,000 kids in the district.
“I see the people at this table as equals,” Looney said during one of their weekly meetings. “This is as true of partnership that I can possibly create. All I want to come out of this is a very good product that will be a legacy document for our families to use as a tool.”
The parent-guardian partnership has 10 essentials between its two-pages. At it’s core, it explains the rights parents have to access and overseeing their child’s education in Williamson schools.
Here’s the core portion of parent rights drafted:
As integral district partners in your child’s education, parents and guardians have the right to:
- A quality education that meets your child’s learning and achievement needs, preparing your child for college and career opportunities (Reference Board Policies 1.000, 4.000).
- A safe learning environment which prohibits bullying and harassment (Reference Board Policies 1.808, 5.500, 6.3032, 6.304).
- A welcoming environment that values your engagement (Reference Board Policy 4.502).
- Be treated with courtesy and respect by all WCS representatives.
- Access information about all services available for your child (e.g., gifted, disabled, counseling).
- Have awareness of school expectations and educational programs with access to WCS policies and procedures.
- Receive timely information about your child’s progress and performance (e.g., grades, attendance, discipline, and communication).
- Translation and interpreter services in order to communicate effectively with school staff.
- Expect homework that is rigorous, relevant, reasonable in duration, and related to identified learning goals. Homework will not be assigned over holiday breaks or with a due date that immediately follows these periods (Reference Board Policy 4.607).
- Advocate for your child without reprisal.
It also spells out the responsibilities parents have. The document further provides the steps when parents need to resolve issues or concerns.
“We wanted to make sure this related back to board policy, and that it was relevant,” PTO parent Jennifer Smith said. “We are trying to create that partnership with you and your teachers. This document is trying to accomplish what works for you, your student and your family to be that advocate you can be.”
Provided the board’s approval on Monday, Sept. 19, the district will disseminate that document to parents.
“It directs your families how to get help, and is a good useful document for you,” Looney said. “When you get those calls, you can say, ‘Have you read the Bill of Rights?’ It’s a one page document on what you need to do.”
Of the members who chimed in, they emphasized how well they liked the document and discussed how it was written.
“With this, we set standards and examples,” District Seven member Bobby Hullett said. “This is one thing that sets us apart – having engaged families at home. When this is looked at beyond WCS and they see this, they are going to go that is an integral part of why they are successful. If you don’t have engaged families, you won’t be successful.”
This is the first of three documents. Looney said he will work with both educators and the student advisory council to draft two others to let teachers and students know what their rights are.