Increase parental engagement by 100% in struggling schools in south St. Pete

Phil Garrett, Community Advocate

How can we increase parental engagement in the struggling schools of south St. Petersburg by 100 percent?

The Rainey’s Bulletin for the past several weeks has been requesting community perspectives on increasing parental engagement. We are pleased to share another article submitted by a father that focuses on the mother and grandmother engagement.

By Phil Garrett, Community Advocate

Mother and grandmother

Parental engagement in a child’s education is paramount to the successes of the child as well as a community. Parental engagement is important because it helps increase active participation between parents, schools and communities. This process is a healthy method that makes the child’s educational process and experience whole.

I would like to open a series of discussions for all those interested throughout the community on the “powers” of parental engagement and solutions that would increase parental participation in our children’s education by 100 percent.

This week I would like to discuss the mother and grandmother’s roles in supporting their child’s educational successes. The past 40 years of the African-American community’s history has been marred with tough challenges. I believe the stronger the bond between parent and child, the more confident a child will be in environments away from the parent.

My mother played an important role in my life as she raised eight children. Her most important role was her presence. There is nothing like a mother giving her children endless hope in efforts to support her child’s educational process.

Today, we have been challenged by a constant cycle of change in our education system. This constant change appears to derive from the terrible process of divided politics and ideological theories professed by misinformation, which seems to have generated a hopelessness that parents have accepted. Now that we have discussed part of the problem, let’s dive into the solution.

The solution begins with our almighty “queens” of the community: mothers and grandparents. The women of our, and any, community have been the most important role model and supporter of children; it is imperative that we continue to support them with vigor and strength.

Approximately 47 percent of the households in the midtown area are headed up by single parents. For those that are working let’s look at what could be a day in the life of a single mother with children.

She would awake at approximately six o’clock in the morning and prepare herself and her children for work and school respectfully. By seven o’clock she’s out the door and on her way to drop her kids off at school or a bus stop. Keep in mind she has to be at work by eight o’clock. She arrives at work and has to face the rigors of an environment that says she must perform at a high level or be replaced by someone else.  Her pay rate is at a poverty level and there’s no pay increase in sight. Finally, but not finished, the clock strikes five and she has to race to her car and pick her kids up from an after-school program that charges her a weekly rate of $100.00.

Our mother feels stressed and pressured because she has to pick her kids up before six o’clock or a fee will be applied. She then races home after stopping of at the local Walmart to pick up some items and arrive home around 7:30 p.m. She has around three hours with her children before they have to go to bed.

Most likely she will have other chores and will go to bed around midnight herself. That gives her approximately six hours of sleep as she will wake up and do it again for more than 20 years. This is the life of a powerful woman because she does what needs to be done, pass or fail. Thank you God, God bless her.

Our community mothers have been supported by mighty soulful angels: the grandmothers that are with their daughters and grandchildren every step of the way. They fill in the holes and support her seedlings with faithful fertilizing love and with an infinite dose of hope.

Grandmothers have been able to carry on the history and spiritual love that our community has needed to survive, and now should be relieved of this task by giving her the support that is needed from the community.

Grandmothers wake up before we do and feel our feelings throughout the day. They know when we are in pain and they know when we may need help. Grandmothers are the backbones of many single-parent households today.

Grandmothers should truly be enjoying their retirement days supporting their families as well as enjoying their later days of life. Unfortunately they have been forced sometimes to become child-rearing parents and this seems to be the result of a failure in the community to prepare young people for the future.

We must begin to enforce a code of ethics in our children that they will follow with pride. This pride must begin with the family and the help of our men.

We have established the importance of engaged parents in their child’s life and educational process as well as the challenges parents face, especially single parents. Now let’s look at how we can increase parental engagement by one hundred percent.

We must support the women of our community “by every means necessary.”  This means backing their needs for support when school problems occur. Support when discipline problems occur, especially when it involves young boys. Support when employment is needed. Support when fathers are not around. Support with day and evening care also.

Increasing parental engagement must be met with increasing the community’s support for parents. Another answer is: get the fathers involved. I believe the communication gap that many families have are due to the inconsistencies in the relationship of the many parents that are separated and/or are not committed to facing the challenges of parenting.

This gap in communication disallows the separated couple from supporting the children of our community as a joint whole. In other words, both parents need to come together under one accord when it comes to raising their children, regardless if they are separated.

Yes, the task of supporting our children in their growth is a tough and endless task, but it is a job that must be done and done well if we are to better our future as a community. The mother and grandmother have been the foundation of the family for decades in our community and we should support our queens by any means necessary. Speaking of the community, let’s tackle the role of the local government in our community and how they can support parents in the next discussion.

Finally, there are many ways and reasons why a “parent engaged equals a child learning” and we must support these reasons with tangible community leadership and long lasting solutions.

Pastor Rainey

Pastor Rainey

Pastor Rainey serves as Community Outreach Pastor for the Faith Memorial MB Church, Rev. Dr. Bragg L. Turner, Senior Pastor.  He also serves as president of the Parent Support For Education Council, Inc., and chairman of JWB South County Community Council. He may be contacted: or (727) 420-1326.
The Parent Council meets every third Thursday of each month @ 6:30 p.m., Faith Memorial Missionary Baptist 1800 18th Ave. S., St. Petersburg, at the (Resource Center), to the far right and adjacent to the Church. The community is welcome.

One Reply to “Increase parental engagement by 100% in struggling schools in south St. Pete”

  1. There’s no substitute for “Parental Involvement” in the educational future of our children. This article paints an accurate picture in the typical single-mother headed household particularly in the African-American community. We should never stop talking about it. No matter our level of education as parents, we are the role model for our children. The discussion around the dinner table should focus on staying in school and getting an education. There are many alternatives available to acquire skills that will ensure future employments. Not all our children will become doctors and lawyers, we need to face that. PTEC offers excellent trade programs in plumbing, electrical, A/C tech, culinary arts etc…Having a profession fosters self-esteem in our youth.
    Parents need to partner with educators to ensure the future of their children in this ever changing society where there’s no room for mediocrity and illiteracy. Let’s keep our kids in school by getting involved.

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