When we were elected, our promise to the public was to improve transparency at Albuquerque Public Schools and create policy that would help improve student outcomes. We promised to be deliberate and thoughtful in our methods and to collaborate given that our approach to solving problems comes from opposite ends of the political spectrum; one of us is a Republican and one a Democrat. And yet, even with these differences, our goals are ultimately the same: to improve the educational and life outcomes for all of our students. The proposed new APS Parent Rights and Responsibilities policy was a direct attempt to address that goal.
As the only members of the board with school-aged children, we know there is value to a policy that clearly states parents/guardians have rights in our education system. Right now, it is overwhelming and cumbersome for families to navigate the system which still, too often, misses the mark for our low-income, language minority and families of color. Our schools can be good at putting up barriers, and this policy is a way to bring those down. Ultimately, it is about collaborative relationships, strengthening the home-to-school connection and respecting historically marginalized families, all while putting student safety and success first.
This policy was never intended to “out” students, to create fear, betray trust or to hinder communication with our counselors. It was intended to foster and improve communication with our parents, their children and the schools. In fact, the ATF Union, in a post to members, states “Parents can take part in school board meetings and elections or approach teachers and administrators about any concerns regarding their student’s education. In fact, parents already have rights to access students’ academic records.” How true this is, and yet so many of our families have no idea that they have the “right” to do so.
We have to be bold. We have to try new approaches to solve our problems. We have to find ways to work across differences. And most importantly we have to elevate the voices and experiences of key stakeholders, including parents. We are committed to engaging in a collaborative process with families, students, school and district staff, and advocates and community leaders to get to a place that balances student safety and privacy with providing information to families so they can effectively ensure the very best for all APS students.
This op-ed was part of a point/counterpoint feature. To read an opposing viewpoint, click here.