ANN ARBOR: SCHOOLS: The Black Parent and Student Support Group: Focus, structure, and a passionate few

By Leslie McGraw, A2 Journal, Heritage News, Jan. 19, 2012
LesGo4It@gmail.com
Twitter: @LesGo4It

Aside from falling on MLK Day, there was something else different about Monday, Jan. 16: It was the third Monday of the month and there was no official meeting of the Ann Arbor District-Wide Black Parent Parent and Student Support Group (BPSSG).

This was only because the meeting day fell on MLK Day. But the holiday’s timing doesn’t mean the group has the month off. Instead of the standard monthly meeting for January, the group was encouraged to participate in two events: The “Beyond the Bricks” community-based Achievement Forum on Monday afternoon, presented by the Ann Arbor Chapter of The Links, Inc. and the Ann Arbor Branch of the NAACP. Second, the BPSSG is partnering with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan (ACLU) on Monday, January 23rd for a Student Rights and Responsibilities Forum. This forum,open to students and parents and the community, will be held at Peace Neighborhood Center (1111 North Maple Road) at 6 p.m. and will present information regarding laws and policies related to discipline within the schools.

Focus

Both of these events are directly related to the goals of the BPSSG and the vision of the group’s new chair, Bryan Johnson. Meeting attendees are reminded each month where the group’s focus should be concentrated. Attendees also see 5-year goals, an agenda, and the previous month minutes at each meeting.

Structure

Johnson, an Ann Arbor native and University of Michigan MBA, would like to implement a more formal structure as part of his vision for the BPSSG, including the 501 (c) 3 non-profit distinction. The group has already put together committees with goals – including advocacy, development and finance. Each committee is responsible for monthly reports and deliverables.

“No matter what you think is the root cause for the achievement gap,” Johnson said, “because they all are factors, there are committees to help improve on each of those factors…there is something to do.”

Passion

One of the challenges for the group as well as the community is to keep people interested and involved. Johnson’s vision for the group includes “connecting with parents that are really passionate about student achievement.” Perhaps with the new enthusiasm from community leaders and other collaborators, the group can move ahead until its goals are achieved.

“If we can get a passionate few, we could change the face of the challenge,” Johnson urged.