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Mayo: The ABCs of the new school year, for parents

Good morning, parents. Welcome to another exciting school year at the Common Sense Academy.

My name is Mr. Mayo, and I'll be your instructor for today's parental orientation session, "What You Should Know and What Not to Do for 2014-2015."

I don't know exactly when this happened, but it seems the kids have become better behaved and dressed than you paren…Excuse me, you in the front row, could you please stop slurping that Starbucks Venti Macchiato?!!

As I was saying, the behavior of our students has been improving, what with all the codes, guidelines and penalties, but you grown-ups are really slipping…Hey, you in the back, could you please put down that Kindle and stop playing Words With Friends? Language Arts comes later!

So here are a few basics.

Rule No. 1 – Don't text-and-drive in the school zones. I know, people shouldn't text-and-drive anywhere, but you'd have to be smoking some of Colorado's finest to think that's ever going to happen in South Florida. Can you adults at least put down the damn smart phones when you're dropping off or picking up your kids? I erupted in some truly righteous road rage when I saw a mother texting as she pulled away from my daughter's school on the first day Monday, with kids all around. Broward schools are urging parents not to talk on cell phones or text in school zones this year (unless they're parked before dismissal time). It can wait.

Rule No. 2 – Don't come to school events looking like you've just been booted from "Naked And Afraid." I got a dressing down last year, my daughter's first in a charter school, when I showed up for a volunteer stint in sandals. Volunteers are supposed to follow the school's dress code, with no open-toed shoes. At first I was miffed, but then I saw the wisdom in this. Parents should set an example, especially if their kids are forced to wear uniforms. Broward and Palm Beach County's school boards each rejected a proposed school dress code for parents earlier this year, but it's sad that some grown-ups think it's OK to show up in outfits more suitable for beach or bed. Try to have some self-respect.

Rule No. 3 – Don't blame the teacher for your own shortcomings. Teachers teach, but the ultimate responsibility for kids rests with parents. It's up to you to stay involved and monitor your kids' progress. Check homework. Ask about upcoming projects. Make sure they have books to read, not just gadgets to play with.

Rule No. 4 – You can still gripe about teaching to the test, but this year it's called the Florida Standards Assessment. The FCAT is gone, part of a revamp to mesh with the new national Common Core standards.

Rule No. 5 – You may complain about waste, inefficiency, underfunding, overcrowding and all the other perennial issues facing schools, but this year you'll have plenty of chances to do something about them. Five non-partisan Broward School Board races are on Tuesday's ballot. In Palm Beach County, four school board races will be decided next week. And in the Nov. 4 general election, voters will select Florida's next governor (who sets the tone on education) and Broward voters will decide whether to approve $800 million in new bonds for Broward schools, repaid through property tax.

mmayo@tribune.com; 954-356-4508.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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