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School district hosts parent academy

NATCHEZ —The questions should begin even before the first bell of the school year.

That was the advice Earl Watkins, CEO of education consulting group Leading2Leap, LLC, and the state education chairman for the NAACP, told a group of parents during Parent Academy No. 1 sponsored by the Natchez-Adams School District Saturday.

Watkins told parents it is their responsibility to ask questions of teachers, school administrators and their children before school begins to set goals and expectations for the 2010-2011 school year.

“Parents are a partner in the process of education,” he said. “Parents have to be actively engaged in their child’s educational process to expect the student to succeed.”

Watkins spoke to approximately 30 parents, teachers and district staff members about ways to become more involved in the educational process of their children. Watkins said the best tool a parent can have is knowledge about their child, the child’s school, teachers and administrators.

He suggested parents establish a vision plan for their child prior to the school year that would identify the child’s strengths, weaknesses and special talents, as well as challenges and special needs.

Using those, Watkins said parents can work with their child to develop short- and long-term goals for the educational process.

Then, Watkins said, it is up to the parent to communicate the information with teachers and administrators before and during the school year.

“If we are going to save our children, we have to do something,” he said. “It is not all the school and its not all the parent, we all have a role.

“You have to go in with your questions and not let go until you get those questions answered.”

Watkins said that means education professionals have to speak a language that parents understand and parents have to willing to speak up and say, “I don’t understand what you are talking about.”

“As educators, we are immersed in our profession and the language of it,” Watkins said. “Educators have to learn to talk in a way that parents can understand, but if parents don’t understand something specific, they have to keep asking questions.

“It is your child, and they are worth it.”

Parent Evette Green attended the session to get more tools to help her high school student to get prepared for the upcoming school year.

“I wanted to learn some things to make sure we are better prepared for the school year,” she said. “Some of the tips, like reading with our children and checking up on homework, I think are good ways to get involved.”

Watkins said learning begins at the home, and parents have valuable information about their child’s learning style that they should feel free to share with teachers. He urged parents to not wait until parent-teacher conferences to begin a dialogue with teachers and school administrators.

“As a parent, one thing I hate is being surprised,” he said. “Anything that I’m told at a parent-teacher conference should be confirmation from conversations I’ve already had with my child and my child’s teacher.”

The next Parent Academy will be from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on July 27 at the Natchez High School campus.

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