Parents count

April 15, 1991

Virtually every analysis of effective education stresses that parent participation is a crucial factor in successful schools. Here in Baltimore, plenty of parents are ready -- even eager -- to play their part in bringing back some measure of excellence to city schools. Why, then, are they too often relegated to the sidelines when big decisions are afoot?

Baltimore city schools have a history of top-dowdecision-making, a style of governance that too often treats parents' opinions as an afterthought. Even when the public is allowed to address the school board, there is no give-and-take, and it appears to many observers that the board seems aloof, even short-tempered in its approach to parents' remarks.

Yet who is a better judge of the effectiveness of a school than a parent who watches a child's progress day by day? All citizens can be said to be stockholders in the public school system, since its successes or failures will have such a major impact on the region's future prosperity. But parents have a very personal, specific interest in the schools -- and their voices should be heard.

As The Evening Sun's Mark Bomster reported Friday, frustration at being frozen out prompted Anthony V. Steward, president of the Council of PTAs, to lash out last week at the school board for not including parents in the selection process or giving sufficient publicity to public hearings. Who can blame him? Baltimore city schools will never experience the renaissance the city hopes for unless parents are treated as partners in the education of their children. "The community must be part of the school and the school a part of the community," said former Baltimore Superintendent William Lemmel.

He said it in 1948.

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