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Return of PTAs Key to Detroit School District's Parent Outreach

Lori Higgins, Detroit Free Press, September 28, 2017

The Detroit Public Schools Community District is taking a familiar approach to engaging parents and teachers: It's returning Parent-Teacher Associations to schools in the district.

The board of education for the district approved reinstating the groups at a meeting earlier this month. It's part of a broad approach new Superintendent Nikolai Vitti is taking to connect with parents.

PTAs used to exist en masse in the district. But only a few schools have them now, said Sharlonda Buckman, the district's senior executive director of family and community engagement.

"The reinstatement of the PTAs is a good example of returning something to the district that worked, that was removed through emergency management," Vitti said last week.

In some cases, the PTAs were replaced with a different type of parent group that wasn't as effective.

"Why PTA? We have to find ways, vehicles, to better connect parents and teachers," Vitti said. "The PTA structure allows that to happen with a best practice, research-based, nationally funded process."

Buckman said about a third of the schools have already signed on to create PTA groups.

The return of the PTAs, Buckman said, is about "creating a platform for parents and teachers to work together."

And Vitti said there's no reason to reinvent the wheel, saying that when PTAs were common in the district, they were strong.

"We know when that relationship (between parents and teachers) is at a high level it benefits children academically, but it can also benefit the school in particular and the district at large."

Vitti, since he began the job in late May, has made connecting with parents a key part of the district's rebuilding. He plans to create parent academies, which will focus on helping teachers in three areas: how to better advocate for children educationally, how to become a better parent. and how to develop what he described as the "whole" parent.