StudentsFirstNY and hundreds of parents from 16 of the lowest-performing school districts in northern Manhattan, Queens, the Bronx, and Brooklyn hosted a parent convention Saturday at Brooklyn Law School. The event - StudentsFirstNY Parent Convention: Educate. Empower. Reform., was a chance for StudentsFirstNY to celebrate and empower parents’ efforts to reform education in their communities.
Parents spent the day in panel discussions engaging on issues such as teacher quality, school choice, school safety, special needs, and phasing out failing schools.
During the opening session Geoffrey Canada, founder of Harlem Children’s Zone and StudentsFirstNY Board Member, had parents fired up as he opened the convention.
“We need to think outside of the box. Inside the box solutions have failed students for decades,” said Canada as parents applauded in excitement.
View photos from the StudentsFirstNY Parent Convention here.
The energy continued to build as parents raced to attend morning panel discussions on special education, school choice, and parent mobilizing. “Charter schools ensured my child didn’t fall through the cracks or become another statistic,” said Success Academy Parent Genevieve Foster as parents packed the house for the discussion on school choice. Experts and parents sitting on panels provided parents with a great amount of information and room for an open and honest debate. The excitement and engagement in each session was palpable. Parents left their workshops craving more, expressing that they wished the sessions had gone on even longer.
As the morning workshops came to an end, parents went to lunch where former president of the Washington, D.C. Teachers’ Union George Parker awaited with a chilling story. Mr. Parker, who is also a StudentsFirst Fellow, talked about his time with the teachers’ union and the moment when he realized he’d had enough. He moved about the crowd asking parents to repeat the phrase “I am the dream keeper for my child!” “No dream, no future!”
Following lunch, parents attended panel discussions on teacher quality, school safety, and phasing out failing schools. During the panel for phasing out failing schools Kevin Chavous, Executive Counsel for the American Federation of Children told parents the best policies fail when people who will benefit from the change aren’t engaged.
The closing plenary began with Paul Vallas, Superintendent of Bridgeport, Connecticut schools, who spoke to parents about why school choice works, among other topics. Reverend Floyd Flake closed out the day with an impassioned speech. “I came to the realization that we were in a war, and if we’re going to change we have to build a school.,” said Reverend Floyd Flake.
The event was nothing short of fantastic. A true example of what is possible, and testament to the work of actively engaged parents. Sonia Saddler, a parent from the East New York chapter of StudentsFirstNY took the microphone at the end of the day to share, “This was one of the best days of my life!”
I couldn’t agree more.