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Global Education

PTSO fights cultural differences to get parents involved

By Connie Gong
Published: May 2010

Newton South’s PTSO is looking for more participation from Asian and other minority parents. Julie Sall, Newton South’s PTSO president, suggested this initiative. Sall has helped structure and improve the organization of Newton’s elementary, middle, and high schools.

The PTSO has a hand in a wide range of school programs, supporting teachers and students at all grade levels. The PTSO organizes several school events, such as graduation, South Stage, South Fest, and music at South. Many events are supported by parents who work on a volunteer basis.

Currently, the PTSO is not getting volunteers in the same balance as the population of the school. “When we look for volunteers, we tend to see there aren’t the same balance of parents involved, Sall said.

18.9 percent of South’s students identify themselves as Asian, but a far smaller percentage of parent volunteers are Asian. This is not to say, however, that all Asian parents are uninvolved.

“My parents are pretty involved in what I do¦they email my teachers when certain school things are happening and they help out the band by bringing food to all of the concerts, senior John Chan said.

Nevertheless, the PTSO still struggles to get more parents on the committee.

“It’s not even just time or money, Sall said. “We get a lot of monetary support and extra hands, but we want to be sure we are doing a good job communicating to everybody…We can’t understand what we need to do unless people are involved.

There are many factors that play into this lack of involvement.

In some cases, the language barrier plays a role, as some first generation immigrants do not speak English as their first language. Another problem is getting in contact with families.

The school does not have email information from many Asian parents, which creates a difficulty given the amount of communication that is now sent out electronically.

Junior Tony Wang also notes that many Asian parents hesitate when interfering when their children are doing well.

“My parents don’t really pay attention to what’s happening at school unless I’m doing badly¦I think a lot Asian parents are used to the idea of only getting involved when I’m not doing well, Wang said.

This could reflect wider cultural differences. Some Asian parents hesitate to get involved simply because they are unused to a level of such cooperation between parents and the school system.

They are accustomed to only interfering when their child preforms badly, and the parents don’t feel the need to involve themselves when all their child is doing well in school.

This lack of participation hurts both students and the school. The PTSO is not getting the input it needs so that all constitudents of the parent teacher body are represented.

The goal of the PTSO is to include as many members of its constituents as possible in order to fully represent the population of students at South. To foster a more diverse and all-encompassing learning environment, it is vital that parents from diverse background participate and contribute feedback.

“I’m interested in a way for getting greater participation and finding people who might be leaders in different communities…so that we get a greater perspective and bring new insight into the school, Sall said.

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