City parents to have more input on how schools run

The Baltimore Sun

Baltimore parents will gain formal input in school governance under a revised policy approved last night by the city school board.

As a result of a major system reorganization last year, city principals were given significant control over how to spend their schools' money. City schools chief Andres Alonso has said all along that administrators must involve parents in the budget process. The policy spells out details of that involvement.

It is the latest in a series of steps by the Alonso administration to get parents more engaged in their children's education, including hiring community organizers at more than 60 schools to mobilize families. Beginning this year, parent, teacher and student responses to school climate surveys will be used in principals' evaluations.

Also last night, the Baltimore school board voted on the renewal of contracts for four charter schools: The Green School, Rosemont Elementary, ConneXions Community Leadership Academy and the Maryland Academy of Technology and Health Sciences (MATHS). Charter schools are public schools that operate independently under contracts with the board.

The board gave The Green School and Rosemont five-year contract renewals, the maximum allowed. It gave a two-year extension to ConneXions, which has fallen short of the state's academic benchmarks. It tabled its vote on MATHS amid concerns about the school's suspension rate last year.

The new parent and community engagement policy requires that each school have an organized parent group, such as a PTA, that meets at least four times a year with at least 10 active members. In addition, it requires the creation of a School Family Council that will serve as a school's governing body.

The council must include at least three elected parents and two community representatives who will advise the principal on the school's budget priorities. The parent and community representatives will also give direct feedback to Alonso on the principal's yearly budget proposal.

Each school must hold at least one public meeting annually to update parents on student achievement, financial information and efforts to engage the community. It must also provide training to parents on how to support their children in school.

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