By: Deb Hanmer

If the Rochester parents (and caregivers) understand how to organize to create a powerful constituency and leverage that power to change systems, then long-term change can be achieved to end decades of harmful policies and practices and build equity into the decision-making process across education systems.  That is the thinking behind the upcoming convening of Rochester parents from district, charter, private, urban/suburban and homeschools across our city.

A diverse group of parent leaders have been meeting and planning since December 2021 to think about how unified parent power can create educational equity in the City of Rochester.  This community action will kick-off with a conference on Saturday, April 30th from 11am-2pm at East High School.  There will be childcare, lunch from a variety of BIPOC caterers, and giveaways! The group of parent leaders has named the conference Roc Parents United.  This group of parent leaders is supported by the Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute and the National Parents Union.

Rochester parents represent a significant, yet untapped, community resource.  Parents have input and expertise that is invaluable in creating long-term change in the Rochester community.  Parents, however, have not interacted in policy reform and systems change efforts as an organized constituency.  The lack of a focused and sustained effort to re-balance how parent voice is considered in education in our city has  allowed ineffective and harmful policies and approaches to continue decade after decade.

When parent leaders speak out, their voices should carry the authority of lived experience. Parents understand how gaps in social, health, and educational services limit their children’s future in critical ways. Unfortunately, our public systems are not easily changed, especially when interlaced with racism, bias and inequitable access to resources between those in formal power and parents.  We are excited to hear from parent leaders from a variety of backgrounds and experiences alongside youth leaders at the April 30th event.

Roc Parents United has partnered with a national organization, the National Parents Union (NPU), whose mission is to support parents who have lived experience and are authentic voices, advocates and organizers. NPU is engaging, educating and empowering families, neighborhood by neighborhood across the United States. With Roc Parents United, parent leaders hope to reset the oftentimes tokenized way that parent voice has been engaged in conversations about education equity.

If you want to get involved, we still need volunteers for April 30th and all are welcome to attend.  Registration is now open.  Language translation will be available in ASL, Spanish and Somali. For information and registration about the event, you can visit the PLTI website or follow us on Facebook.