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In an otherwise strong era of leadership in Forest Park's public elementary schools, the flaw has been in the sometimes strained, but mostly just diminished means of communication between the district and its parents.
The most obvious instance was in the decision in the last school year by the district to close down the PTA which served Garfield and Grant-White schools. Parents across town have felt intentionally disconnected by the school administration, and by extension, from the school board.
There is not a more important connection in education than that with parents. Especially in a school district which has moved quickly in recent years to address a range of complex issues involving dwindling enrollment, school structure and technology, a district which has seen retirements at principal level, the ability to talk to parents and, more critically, to listen is simply vital.
And both the school board and the administration understand this is an area where the district has done an inadequate job. That is why the plan set out last week by Supt. Lou Cavallo was very welcome. He said the district will work "to foster inclusive parent organizations" on the north side, to conduct a survey of parent attitudes, to have teachers prepare a monthly newsletter to parents and to include a monthly recap of board activity on the school's website. He also said he welcomes a special education parent advocacy group. Plus, Cavallo pledged better focus on the district's underwhelming Facebook page.
These are good steps though easier to announce than to make real. Principals and teachers will need to actively take on a role in this effort.
And critically, parents will need to take positive ownership of this new initiative. The district is opening a door, now parents need to step through it.