Advice From a Parent Volunteer of the Year: Find a School That Will Authentically Partner With You

Meisha Fogle of Community School for Creative Education recently won Volunteer of the Year at the State Charter conference.  I sat down to hear her story, talk about the Parent Family Action Meetings she started, and get advice on making the school to family connection work.  She tells her own story of finding the right school, and the ongoing work of partnership.

My First Child Went to the School I Went to—For a While

I am a mother of two, single parent, and Bay Area native. I went to OUSD, Hayward and Pittsburgh schools, myself.  The first school my child went to was my neighborhood school. As a single parent with a small support system I wanted to make sure that if something happened to my car I can get to my kid, and I can get her back and forth to school. And it was a familiar name, there were other schools in the neighborhood I wasn’t familiar with. I attended that school in 3rd grade, I didn’t look at the ratings…I didn’t have any sense of how to choose a school in that sense.

I was a very involved parent and I was at my daughter’s school a lot.  She started kindergarten on a first- grade reading level.  I was in the classroom all the time, helping her, and helping the teacher in the class with other students.  I did a lot of co-teaching her, in 3rd grade I was getting busier and her motivation was going down.  But by fourth grade especially in math I pretty much lost her.  I was busy with school, and she was having difficulties.  I was taking time off work, and not getting responses when I reached out to the school.  The teacher said, Its really hard for me to give her extra help, and we do not have any programs available—there is  15-20 minute slot for math after lunch and 10-15 minutes is used calming them down, I sat in the class and was like… Oh.

I Needed a Partner in School—And a Good Fit

I needed a partner in the school and I couldn’t babysit or co-teach any more.  My first introduction to options was a lady knocking on my door about a charter school they were trying to start, I had no idea what a charter school was, or that that was something I could do, I had heard they were private schools, and I learned something different that day. 

The school wasn’t going to open until 6th grade, but I wanted to listen, and this seemed like something I wanted to be a part of… but we didn’t get a school that year.  Other parents said go to Enroll Oak and get some options while you wait.  Our first charter school was good but didn’t really fit my child, it was just too big for them.

I liked that they had autonomy to change the timeframe of the day they offered 80 minutes per subject 7:30 to 4 and after care, she went from struggling in math to being on grade level in 3-4 month, her teacher had a system in place where she offered office hours, and she would give a retake option on tests, and I saw my daughter coming to school with her confidence to learn coming back.  Her math situation was a drastic change.

So, I could choose how my daughter is educated.

When I Stepped Into the Door Something Was Different

My youngest came from A.C.T.S. Christian Academy pre-school, and she was bored at her first school.  But I heard about Community School for Creative Education—and when I stepped into the door something felt different.  Like everywhere, there is always room for growth, but they have given everything I have asked for in terms of partnership.  She’s going into the teen years, so that can be a little tough.  But she’s in this beautiful community where there are eyes everywhere teachers everywhere and there is family here across all the grades. 

Families Need to Find the Right Fit

I know there are some district schools that work, I have niece that is doing extremely well where she is, I went from one charter to the next charter looking for that right fit.

The other thing is communication and parent involvement—I started the Parent Family Action Meetings around what is going well and what we need to improve, and how we can get all parents involved and help them support teachers. So, we have developed leader parents who help bring the whole classroom together working side by side with the teacher.

It’s a Partnership Taking Care of Our Children

We are making it stronger year by year, and there is just loads of support from the school.  The school leaders attend our meetings when they can, and when I brought the idea to them, they were so open.  They had no hesitation in agreeing to real parent involvement, and including parent voice. They are always there to listen to constructive criticism and again it is a partnership taking care of our children.

If they are missing something—about my child or about the school—they are always open, and it may not always go all one way but there is always a middle road, and they will always try to accommodate.

Parent University and Learning the Curriculum

We have a parent university where we learn Waldorf modeling—that is a really big deal to me. I didn’t know what the Waldorf model was. They try to explain it to you, but you don’t really understand.

What we do is actually physically do the tasks our children are doing—learning, for instance, how using our hands helps develop you intellectually, how gardening is integrated into the curriculum. It’s easy to say, but to actually do it and understand it is better. It really helps you understand how your child is learning.

They really want parents involved.

Becoming a Teacher Myself and Working with Teachers at the School

I am going to be an educator. I will probably go to Holy Names for my credential and this summer I am doing Waldorf training at mills.

My babies are doing good—my youngest is a very interesting individual. She has a lot of energy and not a lot of focus sometimes. She is very spirited and strong-minded, but she has adjusted really well. Her teacher and I have a really close bond in communication about her—the teacher really knows all of her children, and the handiwork and activities here keep my daughter engaged.

They have also made adjustments for her. She doesn’t have any modifications but she has had some problems in math. If there were too many problems on one page she would stop—there was an anxiety. The teacher gave her the same problem sets but on several different pages, and she goes through each one—and that is a great example of her teacher understanding her learning style. And since we’ve made these small changes, she is doing extremely well.

My oldest is a pre-teen…There is a lot that goes into that, keeping her engaged and motivated…She is one of those, “I will only do what you are asking of me.” A lot of the learning happening is with me, in not letting that bother me too much but not stepping too far back.

Academically she is doing well, math is the area where she needs more support, and she has some swings there. She is really well-behaved and quiet, but I put a bug in her teachers’ ear not to allow that, that they need to drag her out, inside her there is a lot bubbliness, and I see that when she is at school, sometimes.

Final Words for Families

Strong communication between teachers and parents is critical…I can communicate about her needs and they respond. I am going to use that word again “partnership.” Because of my involvement and the school’s commitment to take care of my child, we have this wonderful partnership—and when I am dissatisfied I have that space to speak to my principal. And my principal, once I pick up my phone, she is responsive—she is busy but she always responds.

It’s important to know where you send your kids every day, not just the name of the school, but its motto, how it operates, how they plan on educating your child, whether you are a single parent or two working parents. We are all working and busy, but we need to be in partnership with our schools—make sure you are in a place where you have choice and where you have the respect of the school’s teachers and leaders.

Meisha Fogle is a proud mother of two wonderful daughters, and she is working on getting your teaching credential and becoming a public school teacher 

What do you think?

More Comments