As he tries to deliver on Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign promise of a parent contract, the new chief executive of Chicago Public Schools is meeting with parents to figure out what such an agreement should contain.
CPS’ new schools chief Jean-Claude Brizard acknowleged in a news conference following the meeting that the contracts would not dole out fines or penalties to parents who broke the agreements.
“I don’t think it’s realistic,” Brizard said. “We’re not looking for a gotcha. We don’t want to punish people for not being involved.”
Instead, the district needs to figure out what the agreement should look like and how to define parental involvement, he said. Brizard recalled that though his parents were involved in his education, they never stepped inside his school.
CPS administrators hope to have parent-teacher agreements in place by the beginning of the next school year.
In his transition plan, Emanuel -- who is a supporter of charter schools, many of which have such contracts -- called for the agreement to lay out clear expectations for how families should provide “extended educational opportunities at home.”
CPS is looking at an agreement similar to one signed by parents of the United Neighborhood Organization charter school network.
The UNO contract makes parents promise to read to young children daily and ensure older children read at minimum 30 minutes a night. It also requires parents to attend a school activity once a month. Failure to follow through on the agreement jeopardizes their child’s re-enrollment the following year.
On Wednesday, the group of parents who sat in a circle with Brizard at Malcolm X College were handed a copy of UNO’s parent agreement as a starting point. Parent Toylee Green-Harris, one of the parents invited to the meeting, said the agreement should be called a “partnership” rather than a “contract,” to invite parents into schools.
“I don’t think monetary fines are the answer,” Green-Harris said. “With a partnership, parents come in as partners and it’s not as threatening a document.”
But Julie Woestehoff, executive director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a parent group critical of CPS policies under former Mayor Richard Daley, says most parent contracts for public school systems tend to be recommendations for parents. She added that former schools CEO Paul Vallas’ efforts at a parent report card resulted in many principals ditching the program altogether.
“It was a joke,” said Woestehoff, who has not yet had a meeting with Brizard. “You can’t hold a parent to it because this is a public school system. If a parent violates the contract, what would you do?”