BPS to Host an ‘Unconference’

   Every September brings the same questions from parents to their kids about school. Concerned or curious, they ask their kids how their day went, how their teachers are, or what they are learning in class, but they might not ask much more than that.

   Becky Brady, a mother of three in the Birmingham Public Schools district and a former elementary school teacher, wanted to change that. She organized BPS ParentCamp 2013: The ‘Unconference’ in hopes of getting more parents involved in what is happening in the district’s community.

   “I believe strongly in educating our parents about school matters, and unfortunately the traditional methods of PTA meetings and School Board meetings are not utilized by all,” Brady said. “This opportunity to bring a day of open conversations on topics that concern our parents and bring everyone together is a concept I believe would be welcomed in our community.”

   According to edutopia.org, an ‘Unconference’ is different than a traditional conference. Unlike traditional conferences, the ‘Unconference’ is broken down into smaller groups for face-to-face discussions with experts, such as BPS Superintendent Doctor Dan Nerad and Seaholm Principal Dee Barash. The participant-driven meeting helps create networks and lead to a better sense of community.

   According to edutopia.org, this is the first time that Birmingham Public Schools has done the event. It has only been done once at Knapp Elementary School in Lansdale, Pennsylvania. It had 27 discussion sessions and has had more involvement from local parents.

   Brady’s main goal of ParentCamp is to better involve parents in the educational process and to give them a chance to learn directly from administrators in the district.

    “My main goal is to start to build stronger relationships between our parents and administrators, and for all to come away with the idea that we are all working for the best opportunities for our kids so they can be successful,” Brady said.

   Parents are not the only people looking forward to the event. Deputy Superintendent of BPS Paul DeAngelis also feels positive.

   “This is an amazing opportunity to continue the tradition of involving our parents as partners in educating children,” DeAngelis said. “This event, because of its unique format, will allow for great dialogue and interacting between many stakeholders.”

   Julie Wells, a parent in the district, said she has always tried to involve herself in her daughters’ education.

   “It’s important to always get involved in your kid’s education,” Wells said. “I haven’t heard of [ParentCamp], but if I knew more about it I would think about it.”

   ParentCamp has a Wiki site and is in the process of creating a Facebook page. There is a twitter account at @BPSParentCamp13 and it was advertised with posters at Curriculum Nights in the district.

   The event will be on September 28, beginning at 7:30 AM and ending at noon. It will be held at 31301 Evergreen Road, Beverly Hills, adjacent to Groves High School. To sign up, go to bpsparentcamp2013.eventbrite.com. Registration is free.

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