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Article updated: 7/16/2013 6:15 PM

Some question limits on U-46 leadership initiative

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By Jennifer Tranmer

Elgin Area School District U-46 board members and others expressed concerns Monday night regarding limitations with parental involvement in the district-based leadership initiative.

District officials created the Hispanic and African American Parent Leadership Institutes to encourage involvement among underrepresented parents in their children's education at the district level, U-46 spokesman Patrick Mogge said.

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One community member and one board member questioned the exclusiveness of the group, including the restrictions on non-bilingual -- both English- and Spanish-only speakers -- parental involvement for the Hispanic institute and the limit on the number of participants in each group.

Adriana Carpio commended the efforts of the program but said some changes should be considered.

"The standards need to be revised so those parents who don't speak English don't feel that they cannot participate," Carpio said through her translator, Karla Guzmán, the district's Parent/Community Outreach Coordinator.

The bilingual requirement wasn't the only concern.

With 40 applicants to the Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute this year, the group had to turn away 15 parents, and school board member Maria Bidelman wondered why there was a cap on involvement.

"The limit is both because of our resources, but also we want people to feel like this is kind of exclusive … there's a high standard," Superintendent José Torres said.

Mogge elaborated, stating the program can expand, but because the program is driven by the group, any changes to the program must be made by program participants.

The institutes are a combined 50-member group, with 25 parents from each. The program requires a two-year commitment, including one Saturday per month for eight months. Parents receive instruction from program directors and guest speakers about school engagement.

Participants are required to further engage in the community, such as join parent-teacher organizations at their schools. This helps to encourage new participants, Guzmán said.

In their presentation of the group's initiatives, Guzmán and two participants from each group discussed the benefits and future of the program. The report was part of an update about overall communication between the district and the community.

Mogge said to increase participation, the next step will be to take the program from the district-level and develop a pilot for a school-based program, which would be open to all parents.

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