KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Parental involvement is a major focus for KCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell, entering his fourth year in the job in August 2019. But building a base of parents on a particular campus can be a real challenge.
The Paseo Academy of Fine and Performing Arts has seen an increase in parental involvement in the last few years.
"We have gone from maybe having a group of five, and I think three of those were staff members, from having just five people present, to now having 45 present," said Melvin Brown, the chair of the campus School Advisory Committee, or SAC.
Brown is also a former student at the school and said for every new person coming to those SAC meetings, the school sees one less parent upset with the school, simply because they didn't have the right information about their child's academic performance.
Paseo's principal, Dr. Patricia Hayes, said she agrees that parental involvement is harder in secondary education. And she said if people think it's only a problem for KCPS, they're wrong.
"It is a bad rap," Hayes said. "I've spent twelve years in a rural suburban school district that looked a little different from KCPS, I spent the next five years at a charter school. When I witness the number of parents that actually come to functions, it's quite relative to the number of parents that came to the suburban school functions."
KCPS requires each of its schools to have a parent organization, and for most of them, including Paseo, that's a SAC.
There are only six campuses – Border Star Montessori, Carver Dual Language, Faxon Elementary, Hale Cook Elementary, Harold Holliday Montessori and the Foreign Language Academy – which also have other organizations such Parent-Teacher Associations (PTA).
Susan Stocking is an active member of the Hale Cook PTA. She said if you're getting a child up and ready for school every day, you're involved, and the next step really is possible.
"I think as parents we can beat ourselves up thinking we can always do more, be more active," Stocking said. "You know, its just life that sometimes causes people not to be as involved as they would like to be. But again I think sometimes people don't understand how involved they actually are, and if they were able to recognize that, that would empower them to go to the next level."
Active PTA's, Parent-Teacher Organizations (PTO), and SACs are all a focus for KCPS Superintendent Dr. Mark Bedell, and the district is addressing challenges.
In June 2019, 41 Action News reported on KCPS being recognized nationally for partnering with the Kansas City Eviction Project and other groups to help families who are in danger of being evicted.
Last school year, students in the district changed schools within KCPS at a rate of 48 percent, more than twice the state average.
But Bedell said he also knows there's only so much the district can do.
"I remember when I was a principal and I was beating myself up, over the fact that I could not get a lot of parents to join our Parent-Teacher Student Association," Bedell said. "The mentor principal told me, 'What do you want to be held accountable for at the end of the year? Are you going to be held accountable for having the most robust PTA, or you gonna be held accountable for how you're moving the needle with those kids within those four walls?'"
To learn more about parent organizations within KCPS, click here.