In praise of parent involvement

We go to a lot of local meetings in the journalism biz and one thing we’ve always noticed is there’s usually a lot of available seating in the audience. Meeting holders are aggressively ambitious in their placement of chairs, when sometimes all that’s needed is three or four.

Something we’ve noticed in the last few months: Seats are at a premium for Del Mar Union School District board meetings, special meetings and 7-11 committee meetings. The parents are paying attention.

Any visitor to one of these meetings knows they are not brief. For a board of trustee meeting to end before 10 p.m. would be a shock. And yet the parents show up and more impressively, they hang in ‘til the end. Even more impressive? They come back for more.

There are parents who attend and speak up so religiously that everybody knows their names, folks like Beth Westberg and Kerry Traylor from Del Mar Hills or Ashley Falls parents Doug Rafner and Heidi Niehart. Others come nearly every meeting but do not speak, listening and storing away facts and opinions.

DMUSD parents’ commitment to their children’s education, to the district’s school is incredible. They come straight from work, from the gym still in their sneakers, some come with work to catch up on until their agenda item comes up. Many have to tote children along with them — at last week’s 7-11 committee meeting, a row of seats was filled with kids fresh from soccer practice, their cleats and shin guards abandoned on the floor.

They come because they care, because they want to make their district better, because they want their voice to be heard, because they want board members to be held accountable for their decisions.

If valuable programs might be cut, they work hard to fundraise. If beloved teachers’ hours might be slashed, they step up to fight for them. If school closure is on the table, some stick up for their school, others urge the board to consider making an unpopular decision if it means solving financial woes.

When a special board meeting was called the day before Thanksgiving, parents rallied at the poor timing and forced the board to reschedule. There is power in being active.

Perhaps there are no more committed parents than those sitting on the board and on the 7-11 committee, volunteering so much of their own time. Their jobs are not easy and decision-making difficult as they try to make the right ones. They take their lumps.

But underneath their tough trustee exterior is just a mom, just a dad. Little League coaches, Pop Warner managers, PTA moms and, at one time, just plain old seat-fillers at board meetings.

Kudos to you, DMUSD parents, who take time out of your busy lives to be there. Your children and your community thank you.