With a renewed focus on inclusiveness and parent empowerment, Newark Public Schools hosted its 31st annual Title 1 Citywide Parent Conference last week that brought together parents, school administrators and educators for the common goal of student success.

Held last week at NJIT, the conference drew upon a core theme of “Parents as Partners – Embracing Diversity,” which explored parent engagement as a way to nurture and promote student education.

The event was spearheaded by the NPS Office of Family and Community Engagement (FACE) and focused on a number of topics including early childhood education, student transition to high school, college and career readiness and bilingual education.

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Other sessions offered bilingual families information about enrichment opportunities such as ESL and annual English assessments for students, as well as improving achievement for students with an Individual Education Program (IEP), among others.

Program speakers included Deputy Superintendent of Newark Public Schools Robert Gregory, NPS Deputy Superintendent Brad Haggerty, Executive Director of Federal Programs and Grants Janet Chavis and Executive Director of Special Education Carolyn Granato.

The Office of Federal Programs and Grants, as well as the Office of Early Childhood, also participated in the conference.

“The Title 1 Conference provides an opportunity for us to engage parents in the education of their child,” said Newark Public Schools Superintendent Christopher Cerf. “This year’s conference theme suggests that we draw on diversity of perspectives, cultures, experiences and ideas to help our students learn and explore education and to engage parents every in every aspect of their child’s education.”

The conference offered a host of informative workshops on topics such as dealing with challenging behavior in preschoolers, bullying, understanding FAFSA and socio-emotional learning and success.

Executive Director of the Office of Family and Community Engagement Margarita Muniz said parent engagement is key for student success.

“Parental voice has value and power," Muniz said. "Our children and our schools need parent input to be successful, which is why parent participation in the conference and throughout the school year is essential."

Executive Director of the Office of Early Childhood F. Nana Ofosu-Amaah said the conference is one way the district brings parents into the educational process.

“We are supposed to reach families and give them the information they need, and we need to start this early,” she said. “It’s really critical to be a friend to our families and to be able to reach more families in a positive way.”

NPS Early Childhood Specialist Nayibe Capellan noted that parents are on the steering committee of the conference.

“The parents picked the theme and the sessions,” she said. “As we move to local control, we need to be partners with our parents."

Senior Coordinator for Family Community Engagement Jeanne Paige noted the mission of the conference is to give parents a voice in the educational process.

“Primarily the most important thing is that parents know that they have a voice because after all, parents are children’s first teachers,” Paige said. “We need to make sure we provide families with the tools they need and for them to know they are valued.”

Cerf noted that NPS will continue to improve upon its partnership with parents as the district moves towards full local control.

“With the announcement recently that the district is returning to local control, we hope to be able to provide any information about this process,” he said. “We have a shared belief that working in partnership with our parents and families helps our schools better serve students. This work builds on efforts we have made in the last two years to improve how we engage families and community members.”