Home » Contributing Toward a Brighter Future
As parents, there are lots of ways to get involved with our schools. You may be familiar with volunteering in a classroom or joining your school’s parent group, but did you know that LoCo offers some remarkable opportunities to contribute on a county-wide scale?
As a taxpayer, you probably already know that a majority of each tax dollar goes to our public schools. But did you know there are three organizations that represent the families in the county by providing input into our school system’s activities and also formal feedback into how the school district is doing?
Each one focuses on a different aspect of education and so they are all different, but they also have important things in common. For example, they are all lead by volunteers who elect a volunteer board of directors. They use an assembly of school representatives, called delegates, to shape and drive their priorities for each school year. They have specific missions, are non-partisan, and one of their purposes is to make recommendations to the public school administration and school board on how to enhance our schools. If you look at the backgrounds of many of our elected officials in public office, you’ll often find they were volunteers in one of these groups. If that’s what they have in common, what makes each of them unique?
Thirty years ago parents and community leaders envisioned a collaborative forum where delegates from each parent group in every school could meet to discuss the latest educational practices, success stories, and issues. They called it the Loudoun Education Alliance for Parents (LEAP) and 20th Judicial Circuit Chief Judge Thomas Horne served as the first president. LEAP quickly became an active forum for sharing information and spreading innovation from school to school. It has since developed into a place where parents, teachers, local leaders, and school administrators can meet together and learn from experts in the field. LEAP is often considered the independent voice of the citizen because it does not require school board approval of candidates for board positions. Priorities that LEAP has highlighted in recent years include mental health for all students, the use of data and research-based practices for decision-making, and the importance of transparency in Loudoun County Public Schools on a wide range of issues from budgeting to providing information and student records.
The Minority Student Achievement Advisory Committee (MSAAC) is another group that serves the county. It is dedicated to partnering with Loudoun County Public Schools, parents and the community to acknowledge and promote the needs of minority students. MSAAC is also dedicated to building a school system that is culturally and socially competent and positioned to provide fair and equitable learning experiences for all students. MSAAC has addressed a wide variety of issues over the years, including broad issues such as the minority student opportunity and achievement gaps, how discipline is handled in our schools, and minority student graduation rates. Current priorities include equity and cultural competence and mandatory implicit bias training. Earlier this year MSAAC recommended the formation of the Equity Ad Hoc Committee, which was recently launched.
The Special Education Advisory Committee (SEAC) works with the School Board, administrators, parents and teachers who are responsible for students receiving special education services. SEAC has a very important role in studying and helping identify unmet needs in Loudoun County Public Schools and in making recommendations that respond to themes and trends, especially when there are indicators that wider systemic issues exist. SEAC has addressed issues such as making our schools more inclusive for all, using research-based initiatives to create instructional offerings for students with special needs, and minimizing the use of restraint and seclusion within our schools. Additionally, they conduct an annual survey and post the results online.
All three groups have monthly meetings that anyone can attend. Depending on the topic, some meetings feature local speakers and others feature prominent experts in the field explaining the latest research, ideas, and issues for a hot topic. This helps LoCo leverage the expertise, successes, and lessons learned from other counties and enhances the quality of experiences we can provide our children.
Over the years, thousands of volunteers from school parent groups and interested citizens have been participating in these three groups, enhancing the quality of education provided across our county. By donating their time, energy, money, expertise, and ideas, they introduce innovation and open up opportunities for our children. Volunteering your time with one of these groups can create a lasting impact.
It’s never too late to get involved. Do you just want to learn, or do you want to lead? You can get involved by representing your school –becoming its “delegate”, running for a board position on an executive committee, or simply attending meetings on topics that are important to you. With all the options available, it’s just a matter of deciding which one is right for you
STEPH ESKINS GLEASON is a mom to two amazing kids and a wildlife and gardening enthusiast. Professionally, she specializes in helping multi-national organizations envision and achieve new learning and knowledge exchange initiatives and she teaches online.