by Casey McMurray
Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) first came to my attention at a professional conference I attended earlier this year in Sacramento. I heard great things about the work that happened as they partnered with the secondary school to increase the level of parent involvement. I looked up PIQE’s website and their mission statement is “to provide families with the knowledge and skills to partner with schools and communities to ensure their children achieve their full potential.” I called the local PIQE office in San Jose in early March and soon after that we signed an agreement to offer the nine-week signature workshop series to our Spanish and Vietnamese-speaking parents at Rancho.
PIQE was on-site for our Back-to-School night on Aug. 30, sharing information with our parents as we began to promote this opportunity. Thursday, Sept. 7 was our introductory session, during which I presented the PIQE staff to our combined group of Spanish and Vietnamese-speaking parents in the Rancho library. The initial turnout was promising. After my remarks, we divided the parents into two groups to receive the workshops in their own language. I was very excited as I saw them begin their path towards understanding and empowerment.
The PIQE facilitators began to establish relationships with their respective parent cohorts, texting and calling them weekly with any updates and reminders of the next meeting date. PIQE staff members were dynamic, and their presentations were “parent-centered” and engaging. I was impressed that the PIQE parents were given assignments that would encourage them to follow up and act on what they had discussed at the workshops. One particular “parent homework” was to make an appointment with our counselor to discuss their child’s grades, work completion, courses, and possibly other concerns.
In my experience of over 13 years working at the secondary level, I have never seen so many Spanish-speaking parents—nearly 20—come in to the office, make an appointment, and meet with the counselor as I interpreted and joined the discussion when appropriate. It was such a positive experience to see this “awakening” of sorts for this relatively small group of parents and to hear them express how thankful they were for this opportunity to obtain the “knowledge and skills to partner with [Rancho] to ensure their children achieve their full potential.”
At the conclusion of the workshop series, we had an insightful Principal’s Forum during which they asked a number of questions ranging from how EL students are reclassified, to how to access the Aeries Parent Portal to check work completion, to how to stay involved in the school once PIQE was completed. At the conclusion of our Q & A session we had a memorable parent “graduation” celebration. As I looked upon the parents who were in attendance, dressed for this special occasion and many with their children looking on, I saw what I had envisioned back in March when I made that first outreach to PIQE. This was the experience I had hoped to provide for these parents.
As an epilogue to the above, I met with the PIQE directors two weeks after the graduation celebration and we agreed to offer PIQE again next year in Spanish and English. I look forward to our continued collaboration with PIQE for the benefit of our parents and ultimately, our students.