Category: #FamilyFriday

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Parent Voice

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Parent Voice

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

The Power of Parent Voice

Misti Oracion

I am extremely privileged!  Every day I have the pleasure of helping parents and guardians advocate for their children.  I am a Family Liaison at Parents Reaching Out, the U.S. Department of Education’s-funded Parent Training Information Center for New Mexico.  I am also a member of the Secretary’s Family Advisory, and I had the incredible opportunity of being an inaugural member of the NMPED’s Family Cabinet.  I witness firsthand the power of family engagement and parent voice.  Incredible things happen when parents and schools come together as a team for student success.

Families often call Parents Reaching Out asking for an advocate.  We don’t have anyone with that job title.  Our titles are Liaisons because we know parents are the experts and the best advocates for their children.  We give them the tools they need to do it!

The most exciting part of my job and my experience with the Family Cabinet is watching a parent strongly advocate for their child, and then watching it ripple out to affect other children as well.  When a parent says to me, “I wish I could make it better, or change the system, but it’s not possible.”  I respectfully disagree.  I ask them to start by advocating for their child.  Change begins with gaining accurate knowledge, using your voice, supporting your child, and having high expectations.  When you start with your child, you can create change!

Last year, we supported a parent who had been requesting an evaluation for special education services for her child for over a year.  She used the tools we gave her and said to the district, “I don’t think you are following the law, and when I request an evaluation you need to honor the request or provide me with a copy of my parents’ rights.”  The child received the evaluation and services he needed, and then it rippled out.  The district was required to re-write their policy on the SAT [(Student Assistance Team)] process.  They now honor a parent’s request for an evaluation and allow it to happen at the same time as the SAT process, or they provide parents with procedural safeguards, explaining parents’ rights to due process.

In another district, a parent realized her child, who received special education services, was getting less instructional time than general education students.  This loss of instructional [time] was because the school was bussing special education students in late and [out] early.  This parent reached into her toolbox and asked for compensatory time for the instructional minutes her child should have received.  A memo went out to the whole district with directions that ALL children should receive the same amount of instructional minutes, and the practice of bussing in students early or late stopped.

Another parent used her voice and asked that her son’s school purchase a reading program for him because he was not making adequate progress towards reading at grade level.  The school bought a curriculum, and now every other child not reading at grade level benefits as well.

There are procedures put into place so that parents can work as a team with the school or respectfully disagree with a school as they advocate for their child.  A parent’s voice is powerful!  We need to advocate for our children because ALL of our children deserve the best.  Parent voices will bring powerful change!

If you need help in advocating for your child please reach out!  You can reach out to your PTA/PTO, Parents Reaching Out, EPICS, and the NM PED Family Engagement Coordinator.  We are privileged to be in a state where we have a Public Education Department who is doing more than giving lip service to Family Engagement and will help provide you with the correct knowledge you need to advocate for your child and all of New Mexico’s children.

Let’s use our voices and help New Mexico’s children rise!

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Positivity

#FamilyFriday- The Power of Positivity

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

The Power of Positivity

Carol Hernandez

My name is Carol Hernandez. I am a wife, small business owner, substitute teacher,
PTO president, and I teach dance fitness. My most important job of all is being a proud mom of
a 15 year old daughter in high school and a 12 year old son in middle school. I love spending
time volunteering at their schools because it’s important for me to be involved in my children’s
education along with knowing the environment they are in. To me, parent/family engagement is
essential to any child’s education. I also feel that it is very rewarding to watch all of the students
grow academically, physically and mentally throughout the years. Being a positive role model
and building positive relationships with students is important to me because I know in our
demographics the majority of them don’t have that at home. This is why every time I walk
through those school doors, I feel that I have a huge responsibility to encourage every student I
come in contact with. I want them to know they have a purpose, and I want them to feel
important. I want them to pass the encouragement onto others and hope that it spreads like a
bad virus! Last December these thoughts were going through my head as I was trying to listen
to the announcements over the intercom. I looked around and all of the students were
completely ignoring the monotone voices coming through the speakers. That evening I asked
both of my kids what the announcements said that day and neither of them had a clue. That’s
when I came up with this crazy idea!
Our middle school had issues with consistency in leadership last year that impacted the
school’s environment and students’ behavior in a negative way. As the year progressed, the
behavior seemed to get worse, and it was making it harder for teachers to teach and students to
learn. I had students telling me about their frustrations because of all the disruptions in class. I
explained to them that they needed to tell their teachers or their principal the issues they were
facing. None of the students who had approached me wanted to do that because they were
afraid. That’s when I realized that they needed to learn to advocate for themselves.
I scheduled a meeting with my son’s Science teacher to tell her about my idea. I
explained to her that I wanted to start a Social Media program during advisory class. I wanted
to record a video of the kids giving the announcements, create a YouTube channel, and [allow] the
students [to] watch it every day during advisory. Along with the students being more engaged
in the announcements because their peers are on YouTube, this is our chance to promote and
recognize good character [and] encourage good behavior along with rewarding students for it! In the
meantime, this is also a chance for us to build a bridge between the school, parents, and
community! [Anyone] can subscribe to the YouTube channel and get alerts so that they know
what’s happening at our school! They can be informed of upcoming events they can attend,
see/hear if their children are rewarded for good behavior, and be a part of their children’s school
with a click of a button! My son’s science teacher was screaming with excitement and
immediately scheduled a meeting with the principal for us to pitch the idea to him. I explained
my plan to use my son’s equipment and assured him that it wouldn’t cost the school anything to
do this. Needless to say, the principal thought it was a brilliant idea and gave us the green light
to get started in February.
The first day the students walked into their new advisory class they were happy to see
me there. As I looked around the room I was a little worried because I knew we had to make
this exciting to engage our audience immediately, and some of the students in the class were
very shy and quiet, including my own children. I had a talk with the class and let them know all
the plans. I explained to them that their job was to promote good character and kindness and
encourage good behavior. They all vowed to be leaders of the school, to encourage each other
when they saw someone struggling and to think of each other as family inside and outside of the
classroom. That is when MMS Social Media Squad was created! We only had 30 minutes and
4 days per week to get everything done so we had to utilize our time efficiently. My daughter
learned to edit the videos at home, and she was in charge of that since the equipment belonged
to my son. I began writing the script for everyone but later handed the responsibility over to the
students. We truly became a well-oiled machine! The Squad was having a blast and loved
every minute!
The response from the student body was AMAZING! Each week we had challenges
that promoted the pillars of character. If a student was caught displaying good character their
name was announced and they were rewarded during lunch that Friday with a fountain drink
from Circle K. The behavior in our school changed drastically within 2 weeks. One of my
favorite challenges was to invite someone who sits alone at lunch to sit with your group.
Students who would never have spoken to each other were now sitting together at lunch!
Students who were notorious for their bad behavior started to behave well because they saw
the change in the environment. Students were being kind and opening doors for each other!
Towards the end of the year when students started to get antsy, we handed over the power to
teachers and let them report students who made a difference in their classroom. They loved it!
The good behavior and character was spreading! The Social Media Squad had almost 400
subscribers! They were speaking at board meetings; the once shy students were now speaking
with confidence and began to advocate for themselves! Every day they were determined to take
their school back and change the culture!
Going back and watching the videos from when we first started and how quickly those
students grew is amazing to me. In less than 4 months the camera-shy students, some who
had language barriers and/or self esteem issues, blossomed into confident leaders of our school
community! Being part of the MMS Social Media Squad has forever changed me. I now know
that with positive relationships, a little encouragement, and patience, these kiddos are
unstoppable! Most importantly…they know they are unstoppable.

#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable

#FamilyFriday – Parents Must Hold Schools Accountable

#FamilyFriday is a weekly series of voices from the field of families and advocates from across the State of New Mexico. Each Friday, a new voice will be posted. If you would like to submit a blog post for consideration of publication, please submit it to Family.Liaison@state.nm.us. Enjoy and share!

Parents must hold schools accountable

By Bonnie Murphy, School Family Partnership Academy Member

After talking to hundreds of families over the last few months about their children and their school experiences, I have realized that there are just too many schools out there not doing their students and families right, and nobody else is talking about it. New Mexico has laws that tell schools, administrators and teachers how to deliver high quality education for the best interests of the students. We also have Administrative Codes that tell school administrators how to run schools. This gives them a lot of responsibility but a lot of freedom. This definitely isn’t working.

How would I know? My entire working career, since I was 19 years old, has been spent in some form of education, but I have recently left teaching and administration because this project is more important right now. Honestly- knowledge, experience, and training helps, but the key is what I have learned about education through the eyes of parents who tell me story after story of how they think schools have failed their children.

Most parents just want to make it better, not to add drama, embarrassment or backlash for their already struggling children. They are trapped in the boundaries of their district school, so they devise a plan to enroll their child in a different school, tell their child to suck it up or fight back, or try talking to the school about their concerns. Unfortunately, these don’t always solve the problem because parents simply don’t know what they don’t know. However, not all situations end up unresolved for all children and families and not all schools and teachers are failing all children. The key is how educated parents are about school laws and policies and how knowledgeable and honest teachers and school administrators are.

New Mexico just lost a major lawsuit accusing [the state of] inappropriately educating many children. The public blames the New Mexico Public Education Department (NMPED), funding, teacher quality, teacher preparation programs, and the list goes on. These issues are important, but they miss what is actually going on at ground level. The judge in this lawsuit ordered the NMPED to come up with a plan by April, of next year! NMPED has taken definite steps in the right direction and made progress, but it takes time, and there is an election for governor around the corner. I know of so many families who need help with their issues with schools right now. They can’t wait.

The biggest and most positive impact on the education of all youth of New Mexico could be educating and mobilizing the sheer masses of families to keep schools accountable for doing what they are supposed to be doing. There is nobody more concerned about their children’s futures than parents. They just need to know how.

Now, what good would it do for families all over the state to suddenly file a rash of lawsuits and send our schools and Public Education Department into constant fighting and money-draining court battles? Not much, when you really think about it. Parents simply want their children’s schools providing what their children need by following the laws, rules and policies already in place to make their education better, to access needed supports and increase their child’s opportunities. PED should begin more detailed data collection, disclose to the public all schools’ adherence to the laws and policies, and enforce accountability.

My suggestion is for parents to rise up in masses with your tools of knowledge in hand to hold your child’s school accountable. Make sure your child’s school and teachers know that you know what they are supposed to be doing. Parents are going to help change New Mexico’s education history.