Many people in Allegany County care about our kids and their education. How do I know that? Because a wonderful group of them are members of the Allegany County Parent Advisory Council, and I want to let as many people as possible know about their hard work and dedication in addressing the tough issues facing our schools and students.

Two years ago, Superintendent Bill AuMiller created the PAC to bring the concerns of parents to his attention and help work toward solutions. When Dr. AuMiller asked me to help chair the PAC, we quickly realized that it would be more effective to bring everyone who cares about our students into the same room, so that we could find answers together. So this group is large, about 50 people — made up of parent representatives from every school in the county, along with a dedicated group of teachers, principals, administrative staff, and business and community members. We meet monthly to discuss issues that concern all parents, concentrating on ways to improve communication between us. This group recognizes that the better we work together, the more we are acting “like a village” to educate our children, and the more they will achieve.

The list of things we have discussed is long and we’ve had many presentations by school administrators and community leaders, so that can we all speak the same language of education. Topics have included No Child Left Behind, Maryland State Assessments, drug and alcohol use among students, the effects of poverty on student achievement, uses of technology to better communicate between teachers, parents and students, and school emergency planning, among many other topics. Some of these meetings have been very difficult — we have had to face our tendency to blame each other for the problems in our county. But we have found that we can move beyond that to find partnerships that truly work. With the guidance of this group, we have been able to make recommendations to the superintendent that we hope will have an impact on parent involvement and student achievement in our schools. And a good part of our mission is education of other parents and teachers — our members bring back what they have learned to their home schools and share it with their parent groups, expanding the circle and broadening communication at all levels.

We have received a good deal of attention from the Maryland State Department of Education, and I have spoken about our PAC at several conferences, including a national conference where educators and parents from around the country were excited to hear about what Allegany County is doing and eager to take our model back to their home districts. It’s easy to think that a group like ours makes sense and so everyone would be doing it, but in fact we are the only countywide group in Maryland where parents, teachers and others are meeting together to talk. Why is this so unusual? Because while we like to think that it’s easy to get together and come to agreement on issues, we all know this is among the hardest of endeavors, especially when it comes to finding ways to improve student achievement.

If you are interested in hearing more about what we have been doing, a report will be given at the board of education meeting on Tuesday, July 11. I want to thank all the members of the Parent Advisory Council and everyone involved with it for the time and effort they put into this council.

Ask me who cares in Allegany County about our kids — I can tell you their names and I can’t thank them enough.

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