By Nahmese Bacot

As a proud mother and parent leader, I know what is best for my scholars. My voice deserves to be heard. It is my right to have the option to choose if I want my children to return to in-person learning or remain remote. Either way, I should be supported with whatever decision I choose. My daughter has always loved school, being engaged with her peers, and making new friends. Interacting with caring teachers is what she missed the most. The challenges I faced while trying to make the best decision was very frustrating. I completed the reopening survey for both of my scholars. However, I soon learned that there were not any records to verify my response. I was told that my child would have to be waitlisted to return to in-person learning. I was not ok with this because I complied and did everything that I was supposed to do to stay informed. Here it is, I was not the one who had dropped the ball, but my scholar would have been the one to suffer. I had to backtrack and reach out to the teacher who I was in correspondence with during that time to confirm that I did in fact choose in-person learning. I am glad that the teacher was able to provide me with a copy of an email that showed he passed along my response to the reopening survey questions. 

After providing the documentation with the help of the teacher, I was then told that the records show I only opted for one child to return which was untrue. I had to continue to stand my ground of what I wanted for my scholar and not give up. Eventually, the school listened and the situation was resolved. The reopening plans should have been given to families up front so they had time to plan accordingly and make the best decision. I think it was very unfair to ask families to decide without providing all the facts and having an answer for follow up questions and concerns.

As a parent, I would not have felt comfortable or had any faith with making the decision for my scholars to return to in-person learning if prior relationships were not already established at the building level.  

What I learned from this experience is it is very important to hold RCSD administrative staff accountable for making mistakes and not always following through. I want the environment to not only be safe for our scholars, but the teachers as well. This is a time that we all must come together because our scholars deserve the best education and must remain at the center whenever a decision is to be made. “Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we have been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” —Barack Obama

I encourage all families to continue to be strong advocates for our children because we know what is best for them and until their needs are met, we will be the change agent that is needed. Whatever work we do is not only for our child, but is for any child that is in the predicament. 

It truly does take a village. 

For tips to help parents advocate, I’m sharing a list of steps I take to better advocate for my children-  

  1. Build relationships, be transparent
  2. Establish open communication channels and express clearly what my expectations and concerns are as a parent, what supports and services my child needs to be successful. Share my child’s interests, likes/dislikes, etc.
  3. Have my children present at the meetings and discussions about them. This allows for my child to see that everyone is on the same page and they are at the center. We are a team.
  4. Listen to my children, their voice matters!!
  5. Do my research/homework. Try to gather all the facts. Tap into resources and reach out to other parent leaders, advocates and the community.
  6. Have people in my community show up if needed
  7. Put everything in writing, helps keep paper trail
  8. Make copies and keep documentation
  9. Listen and allow for a follow up
  10. Be persistent
  11. Ask questions
  12. Hold people who encounter my children accountable, as well as my child.