Back to School

Parent Academy, Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District

Back to School Means Classes for Parents Too

September 05, 2008 11:15 AM
by Anne Szustek
The “Parent Academy,” a parental education program first implemented by Florida’s Miami-Dade County School District in 2005, has inspired similar courses elsewhere in America.

Charlotte-Mecklenburg School System Starting Education Program for Parents

Registration opened Wednesday at Parent University, a series of free courses for parents living within North Carolina’s Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District meant to help forge inter-generational understanding.

The 27-page course catalog includes offerings such as “Hip Hop/Pop Culture” and “Science Saturdays,” organized into four tracks: parenting awareness; helping children learn in the 21st century; health and wellness; and personal growth and development.

The initiative has received $300,000 in private grants, including $200,000 from the Wachovia Foundation and $100,000 from the Belk Foundation, according to the Charlotte Observer. The program was developed by a cadre of volunteers from various agencies along with staff members of the CMS District.
District superintendent Peter Gorman promised to create the Parent University program, based upon the Parent Academy offered by the Miami-Dade School District in Florida, soon after taking up his post in 2006. His wife, Sue, served as the volunteer coordinator of the N.C. version of the parental outreach series.

“Creating a successful student is like balancing a three-legged stool,” Sue Gorman writes on the CMS Parent University’s Web page. “CMS is working hard to strengthen the first two legs with strong principals, teachers and support staff. Parent University supports the third leg, strong parents, by providing in-depth access and expertise to you, the parent.”

Background: The Parent Academy

The Miami-Dade County School District’s Parent Academy program was first launched at the start of the 2005-06 school year, following school board approval a year earlier. In addition to classes on how parents can better aid their children’s education, the Miami-Dade Parent Academy also includes courses targeted specifically for adult development, such as resume writing and how to tap into social-service programs.

Joseph Garcia, a spokesperson for district superintendent Rudy Crew, was quoted as saying, “Our intention is to offer, throughout the year in a variety of settings, courses that will help parents help us help their children.”
During its first year of classes, the Miami-Dade Parent Academy attracted 18,000 participants attending 500 classes on more than 200 topics, according to Miami-area television station SFL. Courses were available online in English, Spanish and Creole. Arlene Cabrera-Peterson, the Parent Academy’s marketing and development director, told SFL, “If [parents] learn and get involved we will have higher achieving students and a larger number of graduates, a stronger work force and better community.”

Like the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, Maryland’s Montgomery County School District, located in suburban Washington, D.C., was impressed with the program. Montgomery County schools launched their own Parent Academy at the beginning of the 2007-08 school year. But unlike the Miami-Dade version, Montgomery County’s Parent Academy based its offerings on community resources such as the Montgomery Teachers Federal Credit Union. Deirdria Roberson-Hudnell told The Washington Post that the Miami-Dade School District “did it with money. We don’t have that luxury, so we’re taking a different approach.”

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