Q and A with Hartford Parent Organization Council

See all posts
NCTQ spoke with Milly Arciniegas, president of the Hartford Parent Organization Council, about her group's efforts to improve education in Connecticut's capital city. In 2009, the Parent Teachers Organization voted out the teachers and became the Hartford Parent Organization Council.

1) Why did the Hartford PTO vote out the teachers?

The Hartford PTO voted to take the "T" out of PTO because teacher representatives did not attend regular monthly meetings for an entire year.

When parents wanted to talk about teacher-related issues such as teacher evaluation, the teachers' contract, or teacher effectiveness, the teachers did not want to engage. We even went so far as to meet with the local teachers union president, who told us that their job was to "protect all teachers," whether they're ineffective or not. 

2) Where do parents fit in when it comes to school reform?

Parents play a big role in shaping schools. Parents know their children best and are one of the biggest stakeholders in school reform. Most of the time we don't get the recognition we deserve as it relates to parent engagement. Parents can contribute more than raising money for their schools.  In our organization, parents are tutors, classroom observers, office helpers, cafeteria helpers and so much more. 

3) Is there any role for teachers in your organization?

We currently have parents in our organization that are also teachers who work outside Hartford. They give us advice and ideas on how to hold teachers accountable while also collaborating with them to achieve greater results for our children. As far as our organization goes, teachers never had voting power. They were there to provide us feedback and advice when we had questions about any teacher-related issues.

4) Where do parent and teacher interests diverge?

Almost all of the parents' and teachers' interests are the same. We both want children to succeed and to be productive citizens. Where we differ with the union is that as parents, we want the most effective teacher in the classroom, but the union thinks that all teachers are equally effective. We feel they are not. 

 5) Can you tell us about the Parent Engagement Tracker that the Hartford Parent Organization Council created?

The Parent Engagement Tracker is an online system that tracks parental engagement in the schools to increase student achievement. The purpose of this system is for principals to measure parental involvement in their schools and for parents to be able to know what options they have for getting involved. Both schools and parents benefit from this.

Emily Cohen