Community Leadership Training
(An outline of the program follows; to read a more detailed description and analysis in the form of a published article from the peer-reviewed journal Education and Urban Society, click here). Beginning in 2002 with generous support from the Hazen Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, New York Community Trust, and the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute has organized programs of community leadership training for parents and community leaders in low income, minority, and new immigrant communities to enhance their participation in the New York City Public Schools. The program has involved Latino groups in Queens, Haitian-American and African American groups in Brooklyn, a South Asian group in Queens, and others. Over 200 community activists have participated in the program which has helped them to increase parent participation and to lead successful campaigns in the public school system.
Our strategy includes direct assistance for the groups involved, leadership training, and technical assistance. We address each component in turn below.
Direct assistance, which is the single largest financial category in the program, involves the regranting of funds to participating groups to enable them to carry out educational organizing in their neighborhoods. Typically, the money has gone to hire organizers or to increase the hours of organizers already working.
More specifically, direct assistance has enabled the groups involved to
- Develop strategies for enhancing parent involvement
- Devote resources to understanding and disseminating the implications of the reorganized school system in terms of structure, process, and organizational details
- Identify opportunities for parent involvement in the new system⦁ Identify the most pressing issues at the level of individual parents, groups of parents, entire schools, and regions
- Create local training workshops
- Create social spaces in which parents can interact to increase knowledge, self confidence, skills, and social capital
Leadership Training Seminars
Leadership Training Seminars take place every two weeks for eight sessions on the Queens College campus; Professors Krasner and Pierre-Louis, Jr. teach the classes. Before each class, we provide a hot meal, served buffet style. Children are welcome. The seminars provide essential information and hands-on training on the following topics:
- The governmental and political forces influencing New York City public school politics including
- The federal system
- Federal/state/city relations
- New York City’s government and politics
- The History of School Politics in New York City
- The struggle for Community Control
- The Decentralization Act of 1969
- The System of Community School Boards, 1970-1996
- The new, revised system of New York City public school governance
- Parent participation in the new system: Opportunities and Obstacles
- School Curriculum
- Issue definition and research techniques
- Basic Organizing strategies and techniques
- Media relations
- Power Analysis
- Identifying and Distinguishing Problems and Issues
- Building Relationships with other Groups, Institutions, Officials and Individuals
- Conducting one-to-one meetings
- Recruiting New Leaders
- Maintaining and Strengthening a Grass Roots Organization
As this brief description should make clear, groups are rewarded for expanding the number of involved parents and simultaneously provided the resources to organize parents and to mobilize the community. Thus, the program helps to broaden the organizations’ bases, to strengthen indigenous leadership, to empower individuals, and to avoid leader “burnout.”
Evaluations of the program though anonymous questionnaires and confidential, in-depth, bi-lingual interviews have demonstrated that the program raises participants’ political self confidence and leadership skills and promotes successful campaigning. (These findings have been presented in a social capital theoretical framework at the 2006 Urban Affairs Association Annual Meeting and at the 2006 Annual Meeting of the American Political Science Association. An article based on this work was published in the refereed journal Education and Urban Society) As the program has developed since its inception in 2002, an advanced leadership training course and a program of technical assistance to participating groups have been added. The advanced course is geared to the issues and campaigns in which groups are currently involved and provides more in-depth training in research, organizing, media relations, and lobbying. Typically groups prepare for actual events such as meeting with legislators.
In a similar vein, our program of technical assistance makes support and advice available through face-to-face meetings, phone calls, and e-mail. This component formalizes the relations that developed after the first training course when technical assistance was not part of the program. As leaders of the participating groups continued to call on the directors of the program for assistance and advice, it became clear that a systematic provision for this activity was needed.