As an electronic announcement sign outside of the Mount Pleasant School Saturday displayed times and dates for upcoming school sponsored “parent focus groups,” Jamaica Miles considered how few parents were likely to attend .
On Saturday Miles, lead organizer for Citizen Action New York for the Capital Region, organized a meeting of fledgling activists in front of Mount Pleasant School in an effort to help raise money to train parents and community members to be leaders in their school communities.
She said her group needs to raise $5,000 by Nov. 10 to gain access to a matching $10,000 grant from the Schenectady Foundation.
She said if $5,000 can be raised from Schenectady City School District community members then a larger donor has pledged an additional $5,000.
“My role is to do the same thing I want more Schenectady parents to do — facilitate conversation. Be able to offer up their voices for the parents and community members who can not be there on that day,” Miles said. “We want to offer skill development for other parents and community members to be leaders and to then engage more with the school district.
“Have those conversations at the school building level, at the board meeting, at other focus groups,” Miles continued. “Parents don’t always feel comfortable going, it can be intimidating, but we can offer training and workshops that can help them be able to speak.”
Saturday’s event included a Facebook live video of Miles and other activists having their meeting in front of the school. She asked people watching the live video to go to the facebook.com/fundraisers page and start campaigns to help Citizen Action New York to raise the $5,000.
“We’re asking people to have at least a minimum goal of $100, which means asking 10 people for $10,” Miles said.
Schenectady school board member Dharam ”Junior” Hitlall said he supports the fundraising effort and thinks it would helpful to improving the relationship of the school district to its parents.
Anasia Thompson-Lawrence, a graduate student at UAlbany, said she is one of seven children, and some of her siblings are still students at the district. She said the recent incident involving Niskayuna students hurling racial slurs at Schenectady girls soccer players is a good example of why communication between the school district and parents needs to improve.
“I think the situation that just happened could be a catalyst for more people to participate, to show more support for our kids, to realize that situations like this … kids are still facing them,” Thompson-Lawrence said. :”And a lot of people don’t realize that or don’t want to pay attention to that.”
Miles said she will be planning more fundraising events before Nov. 10 to continue to encourage people to raise money.
“We need to change the relationship between the school district and our parents,” Miles said. “There is a long history of mistrust, and some of it is very well founded. We can’t create that change if we don’t offer the tools and resources to the community members that need it.”
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