Testimony to the Montgomery County Board of Education

July 18, 2006

 

Good Morning. My name is Jane de Winter, President of MCCPTA, and my comments are on behalf of the 51,000 members of MCCPTA.  I am here today to reiterate the comments made by Henry Hailstock, President of the NAACP, and by former MCCPTA President Cindy Kerr in their joint letter which you received in May.  Those comments and the joint letter were strongly endorsed by our MCCPTA Delegates this spring. 

 

When PTAs across the county first read or heard about the proposed revisions to policy ABA:  Community Involvement, which completely removed any mention of PTA you could hear the collective gasp.

 

This revision presents a stark contrast to the previous policy which stated “The PTA should be the primary focal point for this review [of community participation] and for community involvement” and appears to be one more step in the Board of Education’s efforts to marginalize PTAs at the local level and county-wide.

 

MCCPTA does support the Board’s efforts to increase the involvement of groups not traditionally represented just as we are seeking to make our own organization more reflective of the diversity within our community.  However, increased involvement of other groups is not a sum-zero game.  Listening to new voices does not mean that the voices that have worked for the children of Montgomery County for over 61 years must be shunted aside.  The language used in the revision clearly creates the perception that the Board is more interested in new voices than in the one voice which speaks for every child.

 

A policy on community involvement should foster truer partnerships and fully open collaboration.  It should outline the mechanism by which the Board of Education will lower barriers to community involvement and should proscribe diversity training so that MCPS and the Board can be fully receptive to the diverse voices the policy seeks to encourage. It should spell out how the Board of Education will assess its success in engaging the community.  It should hold true to the culture of respect cited in the policy and acknowledge the longtime commitment of PTAs and the NAACP by specifically mentioning them in the policy.