Parents, teachers meet at UnifiEd to discuss education improvement

Parents, teachers meet at UnifiEd to discuss education improvement

August 17th, 2016 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Demetrus Coonrod, left, hugs Mary Powell at Eastdale Recreation Center during a meeting to celebrate the Neighborhood Association's one year anniversary.

Photo by Angela Lewis Foster /Times Free Press.

If you go

What: Parental Empowerment meeting

When: 6 p.m. Aug. 29

Where: 1609 McCallie Ave.

For more information contact Demetrus Coonrod at demetrus@unifi-ed.org

Parents and educators met at UnifiEd this week to discuss concerns about local education and solutions to help youth be more prepared for the workforce.

Joseph Lautigar, an accountant with H&R Block, said his children are grown, but his personal interest still motivates his involvement with youth.

"I believe the quality of the community is based on the education of our kids, and I plan to retire here," he said.

Lautigar sat at a table at UnifiEd on Monday surrounded by a room full of residents desiring to help students learn.

The group met days after a Times Free Press report showing that nearly 30 percent of Hamilton County teachers are considered least effective by state measures and that many of the ineffective teachers are in the district's predominantly poor and minority classrooms.

Educators attending the meeting disputed the report, stating that principals who may dislike teachers are responsible for marking them ineffective.

Educators at some schools may also be at a disadvantage because they don't have the same resources, books and more experienced teachers and administrators supporting them as educators that others school may have, said an instructor.

Other educators predicted that teachers will get higher marks in the future, since results concerning teachers being ineffective were publicized.

UnifiEd's Director of Parental Empowerment Demetrus Coonrod organized the meeting after hearing from several parents who want their children to do well in school, but have difficulty overcoming barriers such as work schedules and finances to help as much as needed. Coonrod suggested that the parents support each other as they work toward improvement.

"I encourage parents to engage in dialogue so we can make positive changes so our kids can be workforce ready, life ready, no matter what zip code they live in," said Coonrod.

Hamilton County Schools Math Coach and parent Valerie Smith started the meeting discussing the challenges teachers face having 25 children in a room, all with different abilities and some with behavioral problems. Yet teachers are charged with overcoming multiple obstacles to meet academic goals.

"The job of an educator can be highly disrespected," Smith said.

Then former teacher and UnifiEd's director of educator empowerment Michelle Dunn asked parents about their concerns and fears and their solutions for improvement. She wrote their concerns on a white board as they spoke.

Teacher and parent Montrell Beasley said he's concerned about single parents working multiple jobs who want their children to do well, but are not able to assist their children at school.

School Board member Tiffanie Robinson expressed concerns about having students, even as young as those in kindergarten, take too many standardized tests.

Parent Corrie Bischer and the Rev. Charlotte Williams wanted a curriculum that included more African American history.

The group discussed solutions like in-school mentoring, offering food for after-school activities to increase involvement, having a teacher's aid in every classroom to support teachers, more hands-on learning opportunities and more group involvement to help students whose parents may work and can't get to the school.

The Parent Empowerment group meets again at 6 p.m. Aug. 29 when they will select three of the issues previously discussed and develop an action plan to improve them.

"What UnifiEd is trying to accomplish is to create a space where the community can identify issues important to them and address them," said UnifiEd Executive Director Jonas Barriere. "The first step is to identify the issues that concern them and then address those issues."

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at yputman@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6431.

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