The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) is an independent, non-profit organization that is dedicated to assuring educational opportunity for every child. Our IDRA Family Leadership in Education Model began to take shape in the early 1980s. From the beginning, the approach honored the participants’ language and culture and focused on parent engagement in non-traditional ways. We worked with English learner parents who wanted their children to receive an excellent bilingual education and we have a long and rich history working with families of Title I schools across the country.
The concept of the Comunitario PTA evolved over time, particularly through IDRA’s strong relationship with ARISE (A Resource In Serving Equality) in the South Texas Rio Grande Valley because of their interest in developing family leadership in education, specifically among families that are poor, recent immigrants and whose home language is Spanish. The ARISE animadoras/promotoras (outreach workers) conduct weekly home visits with direct communication and a meaningful relationship with each family.
ARISE became the first Comunitario PTA in the nation. Several others have formed in South Texas. They are unique in that rather than being based in a school, they are based in grass-roots community organizations and they establish connections with the schools their children attend.
Here are some key ideas for replicating the South Texas Comunitario Approach:
- Identify a community organization, civic group or church that is willing to sponsor and organize a group of families in a specific community who want to have excellent public neighborhood schools for their children.
- A grass-roots organization that has real, ongoing and personal contact with families is ideal.
- Have a core group who are in touch with their neighbors and other families in the area that are interested in belonging to such an organization.
- Build community through personal home visits and one-on-one communication in the language of the community.
- Do not suggest electing officers or becoming a formal PTA until the group has been solidified and see themselves as a group.
- Bring together twenty adults who commit themselves to the organization and to the goal of excellent schools for all children.
- Facilitate a conversation to have the initial group to identify their vision and goals they have in common.
- Present the broad vision and goals of PTA and identify where there is congruence or overlap.
- When the group is ready, present the bare-bones community PTA requirements and start the formalizing: adopting bylaws, electing officers, etc.
- Contact the area, regional or state person that can facilitate the formalization of the group.
- Search for data sources on schools, preferably from a state education site
Caveats for this approach:
- Don’t start by trying to sell PTA to the initial group. Many of those we are approaching aren’t interested in the traditional mode of a campus-based organization and in the traditional functions of a PTA. You may mention that the ultimate goal is to form a community PTA but the group must emerge with its own vision, mission and goals around the focus of having all children having excellent neighborhood public schools.
- Don’t go for large numbers or speed of organization. Some excellent community PTAs have been formed that are regional or statewide and those have their own place and function. Our approach is not to seek quick membership from a broad group of individuals but rather to focus on a very specific neighborhood or section of a community and build personal connections.
- Mass media or online communications cannot replace ongoing authentic outreach and personal contact. The Comunitario PTA approach is given life and continuity through labor-intensive outreach but it rewards the community with continuity and emerging leadership from previously unengaged parents and families.
For more information, check out the following links:
IDRA Family Leadership in Education Model
PTA Comunitario Website
EBook: The PTA Comunitario Approach
Podcast: How to Start A PTA Comunitario