Community Ed starts new parent program

WORTHINGTON -- The first Parent Involvement Initiative meetings took place Tuesday at Prairie Elementary School in Worthington, based on a model developed by the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE).

WORTHINGTON -- The first Parent Involvement Initiative meetings took place Tuesday at Prairie Elementary School in Worthington, based on a model developed by the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE).

Earlier this year, District 518 Community Education was awarded two grants to implement a new parent involvement program. Financial support was also received from the Worthington Area United Way, Swift/UFCW, Nobles County Integration Collaborative (NCIC) and Learning Links.

Six people from the community participated in a workshop in order to be trained in the special curriculum, which is meant to positively impact children's school success by working more closely with their parents. The PIQE program was originally piloted in San Diego, Calif., in 1987, and designed for Latino parents, but has since been replicated for other language groups.

David Valladolid, president and CEO of PIQE, spoke to community members at an informational meeting Tuesday at the NCIC. He described the program and its success in California and several other states.

Valladolid said in some cultures the traditional greeting is not "Hello" or "How are you doing?" but "How are the children doing?"


"Our children are not doing well," he said, and listed some shocking statistics.

Each day in America, according to Valladolid, four children are killed, five commit suicide, 177 are arrested for violent crimes and 16,964 are suspended from school. More than 1,100 teenage girls become mothers each day and 2,381 babies born into poverty.

In 1987, the Rev. Vahac Mardirosian, a retired pastor and community activist, and Dr. Alberto Ochoa, a professor and activist, invited parents in San Diego to discuss their social conditions, the school system, and the low academic achievement of their children. What was initially expected to be a two-hour dialogue with a dozen parents evolved into eight weeks of two-hour weekly sessions with more than 90 parents from that school.

"They had no idea how the school system worked," Valladolid said. "Every parent needs to have the resources and environment to go into the schools and help promote a meaningful relationship with teachers and staff."

What started as a dialogue with parents from one school turned into a nine-week curriculum for parents.

"This year in California and other states, 350,000 parents have gone through the program," Valladolid said. "It has now been taught in 15 languages."

He said any group of 15 parents or more that spoke a language could request that the materials be translated into their language and taught the program.

"Every parent has the capacity to learn how the school district works," Valladolid said.


He mentioned individual cases and parents he had spoken to about their successes with the program while sometimes having to stop to compose himself and fight back tears. He talked of single parents with little education and large language barriers who graduated from the program, learned how to be involved in their children's education and now had children in college or working in a professional capacity.

PIQE's mission is to bring schools, parents and the community together as equal partners in the education of every child to provide all students with the option and access of a post-secondary education.

District 518 Community Education Director Jerry Fiola said the district plans to implement as much of the PIQE model as possible, adapting it to the local community. The first classes are in English and Spanish, but there are plans for a Lao class in the future.

"We'll do as many languages as we have enough bodies," Fiola said. "Our intent is to offer classes a couple times a year on a different night in different languages."

Local statistics from the 2003-2004 school year showed the Latino high school graduation rate is 31 percent, while the Caucasian graduation rate is closer to 90 percent.

"Hopefully that is the hook that gets (the parents) involved," Fiola said.

PIQE encourages parents interested in the program to contact other parents and get them involved. It follows up by making phone calls to parents that express interest.

Prairie Elementary sent letters home to all English and Spanish-speaking parents, then made follow-up phone calls. At this time, approximately 200 parents are signed up to take the classes.

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