Wednesday, March 17, 2004

City schools, parents talk about roles

District wants involvement but still must be accountable

By Jennifer Mrozowski
The Cincinnati Enquirer

A parent group for Cincinnati Public Schools is concerned that parents will lose decision-making power if the district limits input from external groups.

However, district officials said Tuesday that they will continue to seek parental feedback in school decisions.

Members of the parent advisory group, Cincinnati Parents for Public Schools, attended a press conference Tuesday held by a coalition of church leaders, business groups and residents who said they would withhold support for upcoming levies unless the low-performing, 38,800-student school district changes how its operates.

The coalition of longtime school supporters, including members of the Baptist Ministers Conference and the Cincinnati Business Committee, wants more decision-making authority for the district's superintendent and principals, a new salary system for teachers that pays them based on how well they teach rather than seniority and more participation by minority contractors and workers in the district's $1 billion construction project.

During the press briefing, board members Melanie Bates and Rick Williams said too many school groups make decisions that affect student achievement, but those groups aren't held accountable. They said the groups limit the authority of the superintendent and principals to improve student achievement in the district.

Members of Cincinnati Parents for Public Schools worry the district wants to limit input from parents, who are part of school decision-making councils. The councils, made up of teachers, community members and school staff, give input on budgets, curriculum and principal candidates.

If the district plans to reorganize the decision-making councils, the parent group wants to know now, said Carolyn Turner, the group's executive director.

District Superintendent Alton Frailey also said he supports parental participation.

"We need to have a conversation about who makes decisions and who is accountable for those decisions," he said. "My administration is trying to reach out to more parents than those traditionally involved."


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