Educators in Southern California’s ABC Unified School District believe that a
partnership between parents and schools is central to the academic success of
their children. Working from this philosophy, they’ve spent the past two decades
striving to foster a high level of parent involvement.
Dr. Mary Sieu (Interview):
I think it happens at various levels: we have parent classes from pre-school to
parent involvement programs all the way through high school. We really see
parents now engaged with trying to lead other parents from their own
experiences that they’ve had in our district and now wanting to help other parents
in understanding how to figure out this maze called public school education.
Like many other school districts, ABC enjoys the support of an involved
community through the PTA, booster organizations, and hundreds of school
volunteers. But the district’s Parent Leadership Academy and its annual
Conference build on this foundation by exploring educational issues important to
parents, teachers, and the extended community.
I became involved as a parent that was upset and didn’t know how to help my
son maneuver through the educational process. Today, you parents are invited
here so that you can get more tools so that you can empower yourselves and
Louise Dodson (Interview):
It’s my opportunity to give back to the community, and by giving of myself, when
people need to call or talk or need to vent or what have you, I’m there for them.
We’re asking that you go out and you empower other parents. That’s what
happened to me: another parent empowered me, and I met Dr. Sieu. So, we
need you to get the power and go out and demonstrate it in a way that will benefit
not only your child but all those that are involved with the ABC School District.
And teaching parents to be leaders – not to take over the school – but to become
empowered enough to work alongside the school administration to improve the
education for all kids.
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 2
The vision was to promote parent leadership. It was to build bridges between
parents and the home, with the school, and with the community.
I helped to start the Parent Leadership Conference and Academy only because I
saw a great need. And that stems also from my own personal experience as a
daughter of an immigrant family from Mainland China, watching them trying to
struggle through understanding what the American public education system was
This is about creating relationships, about making connections, about seeing all
of us as one unified school district.
A key component of the Parent Leadership Conference and the year-round
Parent Leadership Academy are educational workshops. Not only are these
workshops open to any parent in the district, but the topics are drawn from issues
about which the parents themselves have expressed interest.
“What Parents Need to Know”
…how important it is that on a daily basis, you act as a positive adult role model,
and these are things that you can do to make that happen. Would you reflect just
for a moment on people who have encouraged you in your life?
When we talk about building bridges, and whether it’s through the Parent
Leadership workshops as well as the conference, we need to give opportunities
for parents to meet each other, and that’s something that’s also very exciting for
Okay, everyone, why don’t we come back? And let’s talk a minute. Is there
anybody willing to share who you talked about who was encouraging?
The main who encouraged me was my grandmother. No matter what I was
doing, whether I was, you know, doing good in school or bad in school, whatever
it was, she was still standing behind me, cheering me on to either do more, or do
better, whichever the case was at the time.
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 3
I guess I would see other parents that provided for their children, and that’s what
I wanted to become for mine, so I would say it was those parents that were
involved in their children’s lives that I saw, and I wanted to duplicate that as a
We offer different classes for the parents such as: How to help my child with
homework… How to prepare more nutritious meals, Cyberbullying – since, you
know, bullying is one of the #1 excitements right now.
Every student in our schools today is bilingual. They speak a language that is
unique to the internet that oftentimes, as adults, we don’t understand. And so
we’re going to start with a little vocabulary lesson, okay? What does this mean?
“Okay.” How about this?
“Later.” “L-8-R” represents “later.” “POS,” that means a lot of things to a lot of
Parents on site?
What is it?
Parents on site.
“Parents on site.” It’s “parent over shoulder.” So now, we’re at: “Can’t talk now:
parent over shoulder. Blah blah blah blah blah… Later, okay?” How about
“TDTM”? Anyone? This is the hardest part. It is… So we have “Can’t talk now:
parent over shoulder. Talk dirty to me later, okay?”
[shocked gasps and exclamations from parents]
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 4
I know! Shock! Horror! If this is what you see on your child’s computer screen
or cell phone screen and you can’t interpret it, chances are we’ll just ignore it.
But if we have some sense of what it means, or if we go out and seek out what it
means, then we are becoming empowered.
We’re talking about passwords and stuff—us, as parents, shouldn’t we have, I
mean—don’t we have a right to know our children’s passwords?
They’ll feel that you’re threatening them. If you have it, they’ll change it for a
while until they know you’re gonna go back on it. Instead, you wanna be able to
say, “At any given moment, I’m gonna ask you to log into your account and show
me everything that’s there.” And you want to set it up as ‘we’re gonna sit
together… log in…’
So I may not be able to get their passwords, you know, but they know that I
know. You know, you try to put the fear in your kids that you’re going to find out
anyway. That’s what I do with mine.
That’s how I operated with my parents.
Just watching the parents take these skills and go back… if another parent’s
having a problem in the classroom or whatever, they can offer the ideas. As
leaders, you’re there, and you can offer the ideas of how to resolve, so that
everyone’s a win-win situation.
One parent leader who returns to share her experience is Dr. Myeong-Hui Go.
Twenty years ago her children were students at Cerritos High School. Now she
returns to speak to parents of current students about cultural tendencies in
Dr. Go (Korean, with subtitles):
All moms and dads see their kids like this, because we love them with our hearts
and souls. So why is it that our kids… Why is it that they feel like this? Why?
Let’s say our child says they got a 98% on a test. What is our response? Let’s
be honest. Yeah, thank you. We say: “I wish you did a little better… Why?!
Why did you miss two?”
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 5
Go (Korean, with subtitles):
Yes, all Korean mothers have this habit.
Here were Korean parents who came to me and said, “We want to be able to be
a network for each other, as well as work with Adult School to create workshops
that would be beneficial to the parents, especially those who are second
Dr. Go (Korean, with subtitles):
The new generations change quickly, and it’s our responsibility to maintain good
communication, but we don’t. And when that happens, it crushes our kids’
spirits. In order to keep the inner self healthy, there has to be communication
between parent and child.
So it’s just finding the need—what is the need of different groups?–and trying to
address those needs as directly as possible.
Events such as Parent Science Night at Leal Elementary—it’s where they’re not
just getting information by a presenter or a workshop, but one where they’re
actually learning something together.
[parents and children chat]
We’ve been coming since the kids have started school here. For Divya, it’s been
5 years, and for Manoj it’s been 2 years.
Ooh! There’s another scorpion!
I see what they are doing. They know that I know what they are doing, so it
keeps us involved, and that’s what it’s about. It seems like this community is
very close, shall we say, and we’re fortunate to be a part of it.
I’ve been coming to Science Night since I was in kindergarten. Actually, it’s, like,
really fun because my parents know basically whay I’m doing so I don’t have to
keep telling them.
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 6
Ma, look, there’s baby spiders!
All those little things!
Oh my goodness!
Actually, this is, like, a fun thing to visit because some kids, you know, they don’t
have an opportunity to see all this stuff, and they got to learn a lot of stuff in a fun
Ah! A caterpillar! Hermit crab!
Let’s try this big one… She’s making silk. It’s from special glands, like you know
the saliva in your mouth comes from a special place? Her silk comes from silk
glands in her abdomen.
Can you see this one? Because it’s green. It’s in here. Can you see it?
Southwestern black widow spider! Oh!
It’s a good thing for me to be in a learning activity with my kids mainly because
we can have dialogue about what’s actually happening or what they’re seeing:
“You know how he did that?” or that kind of thing. So it’s immediate reaction
The programs are great. I mean, there’s a lot of effort put into it. Definitely not
what I had when I was in school, I can tell you that.
Parents, you can relax: I did not bring anything that was large enough to eat the
kids! So, I’m gonna go ahead and get started. There we go.
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 7
The great horned owl is obviously a North American animal. You can tell by the
camouflage that he has: he looks a lot like the trees that he would be hanging out
in. His vision is beyond belief. The best analogy I can give you is if I put Hooter
on a goal post on a football field and then take a copy of the LA Times and put it
on the other post, he would be able to read the small print. I mean, that’s how
good their vision is.
But parent involvement in ABC isn’t just limited to K through 12. The district
believes that it’s never too soon to forge the bond between schools and parents
in a child’s education.
Barbara Milne (Interview):
I teach a parent education program. We have students that are the parents, and
then they come to school with their children. They bring their children with them,
and it’s an ongoing process where the parent and the child are learning together.
It is kind of fun. It’s like puzzles.
Parents, by nature–I know when they have younger children, pre-school age
children, they really want to be involved because they know that what happens
before children turn 6 really forms their character and forms many of their traits of
learning before they even start school.
Today, when you go to the green center over there, you’re gonna have a chance
to make one of these. Who does the painting on your paper?
Children! Do we let mommies or daddies or grandmas do it?
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 8
No! Right. And on this one, parents, you will need to do the writing of the
numerals for your child as they—to help them put the eggs in this activity. If you
have a younger child, especially a boy, they may not want to do all of these
numbers. Maybe even 6 is too high, so you adjust it to their own level, please.
Okay… 2… You can do a 10. And then a 0, a 0 on this side. Good!
I fyou can get parents involved in their child’s education from the time they’re
very, very young, they feel so comfortable being a necessary part of that growth.
Here, see my little pinchers here? We’re gonna pinch it like that, and then this is
a chair. That’s a chair for the crayon. Now, that’s the right way to hold it. Look
at you! Very, very good! So, Yenni, if you can help him do that, then he’ll
develop the right kind of habits when he goes on into writing. That’s really, really
I found out about this class when my son was 3. Now he’s 10. And then I
continued with my daughter. She’s 5 now, and she started when she was a year
and a half. I think it encourages the kids to have higher expectations of
themselves than the kids who, like, “Oh, my mom’s at work,” or “She doesn’t care
if I read or not, like, she’ll just sign the paper.” They set themselves, like, higher
The parents who are deeply involved in their child’s education will have children
who will succeed in school. And those who are very divorced from the whole
process are not going to have children who do as well, generally speaking. I
mean, that’s the most important part of all of this: if parents are involved, they’re
going to do really well.
Yeah, we wanna keep that up.
Okay, you’re doing a good job.
“The ABCs of Parent Involvement” – PROGRAM TRANSCRIPT page 9