By Yiben Liu
CCBP Graduate Assistant
UA’s Parent Leadership Academy (PLA) and Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) both part of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) held a joint session titled “School and Board of Education Relations: Family, School and Community Partnerships” Jan. 17 at the Bryant Conference Center on The University of Alabama campus. This was the fourth session of the 2018–2019 Academy and the second collaborative session of the Academy year.
Dr. James E. McLean, executive director of the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), welcomed participants and wished them a happy new year. Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education at CCBP, gave opening remarks and reviewed the previous PTLA sessions. “In our last session, parents and teachers began their study of effective communication and collaboration strategies to explore ways to assist their children academically,” she said.
Participants first attended a panel discussion titled “Schools and Board of Education Relations: Effective Communication and Collaboration in Family, School and Community Partnerships.” Panelists included school leaders and experts in the field of education, including Dr. Wayne Vickers, superintendent of Alabaster City Schools; Dr. Kimberly Williams, director of curriculum and technology at Fayette County Schools; Vance Herron, superintendent of Lamar County Schools; Melissa Woods, curriculum director at Sumter County Schools; Dr. Michael Daria, superintendent of Tuscaloosa City Schools; and Dr. Walter Davie, superintendent of Tuscaloosa County Schools.
Panelists had a lively discussion with Academy participants about relationship building between schools, teachers, parents and school communities, followed by a question-and-answer session. Developing effective communication was the main theme of the panel discussion. “I don’t think we can do that [communication] enough,” said Davie. “In our school system … we are purposeful of our communication, and make sure we are communicating with all stakeholders, not just ‘some’ or ‘a lot.’”
While answering questions, panelists also talked about the challenges of building exclusive communication systems. For instance, Vickers brought up his concern about the credibility of social media. “Our generation has trouble trusting social media, but the young students don’t have any problem … that is something to be discussed,” said Vickers.
The second part of the meeting consisted of group discussion about PTLA partnership project planning. Teachers and parents were divided into groups based on their schools, and each group will utilize what they have learned throughout the Academy to develop a project that aims to enhance their school/community partnership. Groups will present their projects at the March meeting, prior to graduation in April. Morgan shared brief instructions on how to build and present project proposals.
Curtis Gosa from Westlawn Middle School said their group is developing a communication-enhancing project between the schools and the community, with emphasis on face-to-face communications. “… so that the school is better served and becomes the central heartbeat of the community,” he said.
“The collaborative work of our parents and teachers is a hallmark of the Academy,” said Morgan. “We look forward to this session each year as teams finalize their plans for implementation.”