Parent support program gone due to cutback

-A A +A
By Stephen Thomas

 SHEPHERDSVILLE - An organization challenged with getting parents more involved with the educational system across the country will soon be going by the wayside.

The Kentucky Parent Information Resource Center, along with 62 PIRC programs nationwide, will cease to exist due to lack of allotted funding in the federal government’s 2011-12 budget.

Created by the US Department of Education Office of Innovation, the PIRC program was originally a parental involvement program connected with the national No Child Left Behind program.

Coleda Tackett, coordinator of KYPIRC’s north central region, said a five-year continuing resolution grant was not extended for the new budget. The grant, through the Department of Education, was PIRC’s funding source.

“We’ve been hanging in limbo since January when we were told there was a chance of being cut,” Tackett said. “The national and state PTAs were rallying to create awareness. PIRCs are the only federally-funded parent involvement program out of the Department of Education. I hope the powers realize the scope of the PIRC program.”

The discontinuation of KYPIRC means the discontinuation of many programs implemented in Bullitt County Public Schools as of Sept. 30.

“We’re losing efforts to get parents involved,” said Greg Schultz, Bullitt County Public Schools Assistant Superintendent for Student Learning.

Schultz’s primary concern with losing KYPIRC is the loss of providing parents with specific needs essential in successfully raising their children as students.

As an example, Schultz mentioned the Supplemental Education Service (SES) Provider Fairs coordinated by both BCPS and KYPIRC, hosted at three local middle schools.

Schultz gave Tackett and KYPIRC a majority of the credit for the fairs. KYPIRC offered information packets with interview forms and checklists that helped parents select a proper SES provider for their specific needs.

“We were mostly there to support it, Coleda has done everything else,” Schultz said. “That’s something we’re going to have to take on. It’s an annual event. Maybe we’ll have one central location this year.”

Schultz also credited KYPIRC for assisting BCPS with implementing the Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) assessment program, as well as organizing a recent Parent PEP Rally featuring information ranging from cyber-bullying to coupon use.

“We’re always implementing PIRC,” Shultz said.

KYPIRC also assisted BCPS in planning the annual Kindergarten Kickoff. KYPIRC representatives hosted sessions during parent nights at Zoneton Middle School.

Schultz felt working with Tackett and KYPIRC over a number of years would assist BCPS in implementing program ideas through school resources such as Family Resource and Youth Service Centers.

“We’ll try to replace (KYPIRC) through our FRCs,” Schultz said. “We will have to collect and understand their data, and how to implement it. We’ll work a lot together.”

Schultz addressed concern that FRC/YSC funding is in a similar situation as KYPIRC, receiving grant funding on a state level.

“It’s hard to cut and provide the same level,” he said. The need for parental involvement has not changed. There’s still going to be that existing need.”

Tackett began 19 years ago with the Ohio Valley Educational Cooperative, a collaboration of school districts working together to gain further federal funding as one unit rather than individual districts.

“It was like a pool of funding, so they could hire a professional grant writer,” Tackett said. “It was a way of providing additional resources, training and staff.”

OVEC helped by providing many reading grants and a history grant for various school programs, along with hosting the Exceptional Children Services grant. The organization also administered the Head Start program.

PIRC programs were established with an emphasis on the national No Child Left Behind program. With a drastic change in educational strategy, Tackett was responsible for selling NCLB to local school administrators and parents.

“It takes years to build relationships,” she said. “That’s been a huge challenge for us, but we (OVEC) already had a good relationship in Bullitt County. But it’s tough to convince people that this way of doing things is better than the way they were doing it.”

Among the services lost with the discontinuation of KYPIRC is free parent training workshops. Tackett said the workshops provided parents with skills to partner with teachers and schools in increasing student academic performance.

KYPIRC featured specific workshops for Kindergarten, elementary, middle and high school success, helping parents and students prepare for successful transitions.

“The (FRC/YSC) can continue this with no fee,” said Tackett. “They can shape and mold to adapt it to a specific audience.”

Free professional development programs for teachers and administrators, approved by the Effective Instructional Leadership Act (EILA) will be discontinued, along with free child care provider training.

“Most (professional development) training must be EILA approved,and we attach EILA credit to the training,” said Tackett. “Normally day cares have to pay for trainings. The Bullitt County Health Department receives grants and we collaborate with them for free sessions. This will no longer be available in our district.”

Another KYPIRC loss is a home visitation program for at-risk families, meaning families who are not of the general nuclear family setup. KYPIRC provided tips on homework assistance and effective parent/teacher conferences along with implementing positive discipline at home.

Shepherdsville resident Donna Day learned about PIRC during an open house at Shepherdsville Elementary. Day is raising a grandson who attends the school.

“A lot of people aren’t even aware they’re there but I’m glad they are,” said Day. “Raising a grandkid...things are different today. They sent a lot of information home. They tell you what it all means.”

With changes over the years in math and reading education, Day appreciated PIRC’s assistance in understanding new lesson plans so she could work with her grandson at home.

“It was always beneficial,” Day said. “It keeps you, as a parent, on track. We’ll miss that.”

Day said PIRC Early Childhood Parent Coordinator Elaine Diener worked primarily with the family, helping Day understand various coursework as well as  offering parenting tips and family activity ideas.

“In a busy world, it’s hard,” said Day. “They’re just like a best friend. We worked with Elaine a lot.”

Day was able to stay updated on a wide variety of parental topics thanks to PIRC’s “Lending Library.”

“They had all different subjects,” Day said. “Stuff from experts, books about fun stuff. It helped with ideas for better parenting.”

“The Lending Library was very helpful, especially for the parents,” said Tackett. She added that library materials were being ‘inherited’ by other OVEC programs.

In Day’s case, her grandson was diagnosed with ADHD. PIRC assisted Day in collecting ADHD information and sources to help her better understand the situation and treatments.

“(PIRC) helped to find resources outside of the school,” she said. “Anything to help you and your child succeed, they were there for us. They give you the information to make the proper decisions.”

In recent years Day and her grandson attended PIRC summer camps for grandparents raising grandchildren.

“That really helped us spend quality time together,” she said. “We learned ways to get the kids off of electronics for a while and get involved as a family.”

Her grandson entering fourth grade, Day hates to see that PIRC’s middle school transition program will no longer be available to her family.

“It’s important to the community, they do all age groups,” said Day. “We’ll miss it. It’s been very beneficial. It keeps you, as a parent, on track. Anything to help you and your child succeed, they were there for us.”

Schultz admitted one of the strentghs of the KYPIRC program was giving parents a ‘less-threatening’ advocate for their children than the school might be able to provide.

“Parents are really losing an advocate,” he said. “A lot of parents without a positive school experience, they are not as comfortable with us with Coleda.”