“I believe what’s here as parent involvement is really at envy in this country,” Birmingham Superintendent Daniel Nerad said.
This was the point Nerad stressed repeatedly during an interview on Tuesday May 21.
Out of the 28 school districts in Oakland County, Birmingham is fortunate to have parent engagement.
“People value the parent involvement that exists in this district,” Nerad said. “Parent involvement fosters a good learning environment for young people.”
According to a 2002 report from Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, students with involved parents are more likely to perform better academically.
The information tells you that when you have an active parent the school system is better and the children can do better,” Board of Education Member Robert Lawrence said. “So it is cornerstone of what a good school district is built on.”
Some of the improved areas include earning higher grades and test scores and enrolling in higher level programs.
“The more engagement we have and there is evidence that the more involved in a student’s life, even if it’s not their own student, the GPA levels are higher,” Board of Education Member Geri Rinschler said.
Parental involvement does not just help students academically. Their support also includes going to conferences, open houses, and sporting events.
“Everywhere in the district you see parents involved in the system to help their kids and other children as well,” Lawrence said. “They’re giving their talent and their time and its benefitting the whole system.”
One of the reasons that parents are able to contribute so much is because the environment is welcoming.
“There are school districts where the culture of the school doesn’t invite parents in,” Rinschler said.
Communications between the parents and administrators is a key factor in their involvement.
“Our principals really take it a step farther,” Rinschler said. “It’s more than just communication it’s sharing perspective on education with the parents.”
Outside of administrative involvement, Lawrence said that parents recognize the importance of education in the community.
“I think it’s because they understand the value of education for themselves, because this is a highly
educated community, and the impact that it will have for their children,” Lawrence said.
The parents also like to contribute in other ways too, by giving suggestions on how to make the system better.
“Parents will come in and criticize the school board on areas where we might need to improve,” Lawrence said.
Overall having parents play a role in the community is a positive. There’s hardly any occasions where their presence is harmful.
“There have been some rare occasions,” Rinschler said. “I don’t see a lot of negatives.”
When there are issues, the Board recognizes that they parents are trying to be difficult they just care about their children.
“It’s just finding the balance and then embracing the saying that parents provide that are positive.” Lawrence said.
The Board of Education is hoping to get more community involvement later this year.
“One of my hopes for the upcoming plans in the fall will be that we develop more school district partnership because all of those relationships just make us a stronger community,” Rinschler said.
The strength of the community comes down to the support given by parents.
“The fact that there is such an organized structure here and support for each of the schools shows that the community really puts their arms around kids,” Nerad said.