In an effort to see their children better taught, about 700 South Bronx parents are finding themselves back in the learner's seat.
The advocacy group "Mothers on the Move" is determined to shape neighborhood parents into a highly informed and powerful lobbying group on behalf of their children's education. In order to help parents understand how the system works, whom they should be speaking to, and what they should be asking for, MOM regularly offers workshops and open meetings.
Some of the topics covered in these meetings are understanding the power structure of the school system; what makes an effective school; how to advocate for your child; how to turn around a failing school; how to interpret statistics on school success and failure; and how school-board elections work.
The group has also invited successful public school principals from other districts in as guest speakers in an effort to learn from their stories. Recently, a group of parents traveled to Chicago to meet with several local school councils there to garner ideas about school government.
But for MOM member Lisa Ortega, one of the most exciting learning opportunities occurred two years ago when two of the group's members ran for the local school board. Ms. Ortega still remembers the enthusiasm she and others - many of whom had previously known or cared little about such elections - felt about canvassing the neighborhood to get the votes out.
"People who had never voted before, not even for the president, they voted," she recalls. "It was exciting, like another world. We always used to think that we're the poor people, that politics has nothing to do with us."