GEITING PARENTS more involved in city schools is a principal aim of the District's school board. Yet, by its inaction, the board may soon end the decade-long relationship between the schools and three special parent volunteer groups: the Anacostia Community School Board and the Adams and Reed Elementary school boards.
All three of those community boards, whose members are elected by community residents, owe something to the schools' short-lived experiment with community-control in the early 1970s - and also to the obvious need of officials to engage parents in the life of their children's schools. The Adams and Reed boards are both concerned with just one school. The Anacostia board includes parents from over 30 schools in an area that has more children attending public school than any other section of Washington. All three have directly influenced how school funds were spent, how academic programs wer designed and what teachers and administrators were hired for their schools. Their special status was sealed five years ago by separate agreements with the citywide school board. It is those agreements that are due to expire this fall.
Last winter the three groups asked the District school board to renew the agreements. Since then, their proposals have been stuck in a board committee. Board officials say they won't discuss them until after school opens in September. They give two reasons for the delay. One is that city law forbids them to delegate, to essentially private citizen groups, the kind of authority the old agreements contained. The other is that they are studying whether to replace the existing community boards with the parent volunteer groups the school board created by legislation in each city school last winter. The purpose of that legislation was to guarantee that all schools have the same kind of formal parent advisory group.
At first glance, those reasons for delay may seem reasonable. But the fact is that the affected community school boards months ago agreed not to seek the explicit administrative authority of the old agreements. To the second reason for delay, the community school board members reply, wisely, in our view, that it is senseless to replace a proven, effective group that has yet even to begin working - just for the sake of "uniformity."
We think the District school board should renew its agreements with the three community school boards and that it should do so before school opens. It isn't a matter of bowing to unwarranted community pressure. It is a matter of keeping a rare and good thing going.