I planned to write about my trip to New Braunfels, south of Austin Monday and Tuesday and my experience Wednesday getting a demolition permit for our garage. When I included the permit stuff, this post grew way too long, so you’ll have to come back next week to hear about that. The story is worth telling!
The reason for the New Braunfels trip was celebrating 30 years of Parents as Teachers (PAT) in Texaas, where it began in 3 pilot school districts: Garland ISD, Allen ISD, and Fort Worth ISD. My good friend Julie Miers was the first Fort Worth Parent Educator in 1987, going to St. Louis for a week of training. Over 30 years, she’s grown the program to over 50 parent educators, in all of our elementary schools. Her program is the largest in the state. Julie’s a state and national trainer, even traveling to England to train other parent educators. State PAT recognized the FWISD program at a reception in New Braunfels Monday afternoon.
I drove down on Monday and returned Tuesday. For me the drive is 4 1/2 hours one way. Traffic was interesting, even on the Austin Bypass which had more traffic than expected.
Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes dotted the road side.
This is the best pic I could get because of all that traffic and whizzing along at 75 mph. (Texas keeps raising the speed limits even on roads with lots of traffic and cars getting on and off. Someone must be getting kickbacks from the energy industry. There’s no sane reason for anyone to drive 75 or 80 mph—yes some roads with an 80 mph are out in the boonies—but this was right down I-35. Nuts. Another post sometime. 😊 )
Let me tell you about my long-term connection to PAT. My friend Julie was hired in 1987. I was elected to the Fort Worth School Board in 1988. Our initial funding came from Mental Health America, Texas Education Agency, and our school district. Now we get funds from MHA, FWISD, and grants. The core of the program is monthly visits in the homes of new parents (now any parent with a child 0-4) and includes monthly get-togethers at the local school, where the parents can check out resources—books, toys, etc. They get to see they aren’t alone in that overwhelming job of being a parent to a baby—or heck any age child! So as a school board member I spoke about the importance of continuing funding for this vital, evidenced-based program. Julie received this honor a couple of years ago.
Later as a principal in the district, the first thing I did in the three schools I worked, as an Assistant Principal in one and then as Principal in two others, was to call Julie and say, “I need a Parent Educator. Can you get me one?” She gave me wonderful parent educators in each of my schools who made a significant difference in the lives or our families. When lean times hit at the state level, I worked with others to organize a local fundraising luncheon. For several years, I’ve served on the State Advisory Board. Cake-yummm!
I’ve been privileged to play different roles in my life, but I can make an argument this one as an advocate for early childhood intervention is tops. This is the best use of our money as a nation. It’s not impossible to reach a middle school or high school student woefully behind, but nearly so, and ever so much more expensive. Those we can’t reach end up in our jails. Now that is expensive, both in $ costs and personal costs. The answer is to start at the beginning and help the parent be the best parent they can be and that they want to be. Here’s the link for the national program. http://parentsasteachers.org/
Texas has been fortunate to have been led by Elaine Shiver for all this time and most of the time ably assisted by Mayra Benningfield who took this picture. Elaine is to my left and Julie is to her left.
If your school district doesn’t have this program, you should bring it to the attention of our administrators and board members. It works!
Do you have an issue(s) you’re passionate about? Something you talk up, give money to, give time to? Love to hear from you.