Panel 4 Speaker: Sandra Tolliver – Parent (OH)

RTI Leadership Forum
Washington, DC
December 8, 2010


Hello.  I am indeed glad to be here today.  Thank you for the invitation.  And I wanted to say first off in a professional way to Ed what a cool paper.  Thank you for that.

I’m going to talk about how we involve our parents at Cincinnati public schools in this process.  And I have a few visual aids for you all today, but the one way that we involve our parents is that we have information to share with parents when they come into the schools, when their children are newly identified we have, we send out the programs for each parent that gets the spotlights, which talks about the process of pyramid of intervention and it talks in a parent-friendly language so everybody can understand what’s actually going on in the classroom and we also have rollouts of trainings for parents that will help parents to continue to understand.  And this is our parent guide for our pyramid of interventions.  We have our quick guide for the students and we have the parent guide.  Our parent advisory committee got together, took this and broke it down and made it parent-friendly.  So we’re really excited about this and we also have it in 4 languages, English, languages, I’m sorry, English, Arabic, Spanish, and French.

I wanted to say in my mind with dealing with parents I have to take all this information and kind of put it all in a bag, shake it up, and make it understandable for parents.  I find that parents want to be involved.  They don’t understand how to be involved.  They need to know, we have to have a common language.

We’ve heard that throughout this day about having common language.  It’s paramount because parents do want to be involved.  We’re in an urban district, and we have a lot of parents that we have English-speaking parents, we have parents that speak Spanish, we have parents that have no literacy skills at all.   So what we’ve done, we’ve developed even a video that talks about the pyramid of interventions because our effort is not to leave anyone out because all of their students are in our classrooms.  As a parent of a child with autism, I’ve been through these processes myself and as a parent I want—even if I don’t know what’s going on—I want at least to have some type of explanation what you’re doing in the classroom with my child.  I wanted to learn more about alternative assessments.  I wanted to know what does his day look like.  Is he in general education, or is he in…how many minutes is he spending with a speech pathologist or whatever.  Parents just want to know what’s going on and I think if we build relationships with parents and I have this little thing that I say when we go into these meetings and different meetings.  Leave your egos at the door because if we believe that parents can come in and we need to make them partners. I don’t know about you but as a parent it would scare me if I had to leave my son with someone who was just I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  I couldn’t speak to them.  They had an attitude or whatever.  So my job, what I do is I build relationship.  I’m pretty good at it.  I build relationship not only with the parents, with the community, with all the stakeholders. I think I probably know everybody in Cincinnati, Ohio, thank you very much (laughter).

Markay:  She’s not lying.

Sandra:  And it’s important that we don’t forget that parents are in essence, they are the ones who are providing these wonderful, lovely children.  We can’t lose focus on them.  What we want is success, whatever that success looks like.  Cause for my son, success looks like learning his name, his telephone number.  Learning directions.  Learning signs and things that wouldn’t you know, just general basic things that we kind of take for granted.  And I know, and speaking as a parent and I identify with the parents who the lady got up here and she talked about her son.  I can identify with it because when we listen, we have to listen to children.  We have to listen to students that…we learn a lot from students whether they’re verbal or non-verbal.

She scares me with them numbers.  I’m sorry.  (laughter)  And so what we’ve done, we also have another brochure that we send out to our parents that talks about the different services we have in the department of student services.  And yes we do highlight pyramid interventions because it’s important.  Can’t find it.  Don’t have a lot of time, but if you want to see it, see me.

And also I wanted to touch on the teachers unions, getting buy-in.  I know I’m jumping around but everybody said so many great things and my mind is just flooded right now.  Getting buy-in from the teachers unions, getting buy-ins from parents, getting buy-ins from state code as we all come together in a collaborative manner to push for success for our students.  No one should go out of a meeting not knowing what’s going on, so I think that we should make information understandable, user-friendly, and knowing that we all are in this together cause the higher, you know the farther children go in school from pre-K to 12th grade, you know the parents’ involvement falls off.  You know it’s highly involved in pre-school.  By the time the child gets to 8th grade you can’t find a parent anywhere.   So if we engage those parents at the pre-school level and follow those parents, chances are and I know for a fact they will be involved all the way through 12th grade.  And the issue with higher education, I’m always called to do talks to new students, new student teachers about how do we involve parents, how do we get the I don’t know why so vague and it’s like a mystery to how to involve parents because the first thing I say is I am a parent so how would you engage me?  It’s easy for you.  Well, how do you engage that loud parent?   You know culturally we have to understand that people can be loud, they can be shy, it doesn’t matter.  The message is still the same:  we just have to know that if they’re loud they’re not yelling at us.  Or if they’re quiet, they’re not ahh, you know evade the issue.  We have to understand the cultures of different people in our society.

And last but not least, the perception of parents is always that we know everything first.  They say I bring my child to school because you know everything.  I say, Yes, but you know everything too because you were your child’s first teacher.  So you just come and join us in this journey of education that we can succeed together in making it possible for your student.  Thank you.  (applause)

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