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Groundbreaking conference centers on achievement

On Saturday morning, August 8, 2015, in Tucson, a groundbreaking collaboration took place—the African American Parent Conference. Parents, educators, local law enforcement, community members and national speakers came together with one goal in mind: student achievement.

Dr. Patricia Phipps, Executive Vice President and Chief Program Officer for the Los Angeles Urban League, called the collaboration historic, noting that she has been trying to put together a similar event with the school district in Los Angeles for years.

Dr. Phipps, an expert in the field of early education, showed the audience several graphics outlining the need for stronger advocates for African American students across the nation, especially young boys.
Photo from Conference

Black male students are grossly underrepresented in gifted education and overrepresented in special education.
41 percent of black males graduate from high school
Only 4 percent of college students are African American males
44 percent of all prisoners in the USA are African American

During the conference, parents and guardians learned about the tools and resources available to them to work closely with the school district and see the best results for their children. They also heard from Dr. Art McCoy, who served as the superintendent of the Ferguson, Missouri, school district during the unrest in the area last year.

Dr. McCoy shared his perspective on parent engagement. Dr. McCoy became the youngest certified teacher in Missouri at the age of 19.

Following the conference, Dr. McCoy said, "It has been an awesome experience. The power, the energy, the excitement, the knowledge, the enlightenment, the engagement—it has all been exactly what's needed to help great things happen for our children."

The conference idea came from community members, who in turn reached out to the district to partner. "It's an opportunity to bring parents, the community and the school district together to really address the issues associated with academic performance of African American students, " said Daisy Jenkins. Jenkins was instrumental in bringing the community and the school district together.

Dr. H.T. Sánchez, Tucson Unified School District Superintendent said, "it's an opportunity not just to have Tucson Unified School District in the community, but rather to have the community in Tucson Unified School District. We're very impressed. We're very pleased by all of the parent participation."

Parents who attended the event left feedback for the committee that included comments like:

"This was awesome and very engaging! Truly amazed at all the knowledge and scholars under one roof."

"I am praying this becomes so big. Every parent of a black child will be here in the following years."

"I learned a lot of great information to be more active in my child's education. THANK YOU."

"I am so proud that dialogue and action is taking place with TUSD and the African American community."

The African American Parent Conference is a first step in Tucson Unified School District's commitment to helping parents and guardians get the tools they need to be the best advocates for their children.