“It was like a family that came together on that day,” Charles said of the Queens conference, where speakers focused on parent leadership topics such as parent-teacher associations, Title I funding, school budgets and Community Education Councils.
At the Bronx conference on Nov. 3, a display of historic civil rights photographs set the tone. The planning committee assembled the photos in honor of the keynote speaker, Claudette Colvin, an American civil rights pioneer who lives in the borough. When Colvin couldn’t make it, the more than 400 attendees greeted the news with goodwill, resolving to enjoy the caring and educational environment all the same. Biviana Cuas, an aunt of a city student, especially liked the anti-bullying workshop, saying she “learned how to spot the warning signs.” Cuas traveled all the way from Brooklyn to attend the Bronx parent conference. When asked why she didn’t attend the conference in her home borough, Cuas said, “I went to that one, too!”The 450 attendees at the Nov. 17 Brooklyn conference enjoyed some student-led surprises. The program included artwork from the conference’s first-ever student art contest, and all those who submitted pieces were honored at the conference. There was a teen summit alongside the workshops for grown-ups. A surprise flash mob of singing and dancing, courtesy of Brooklyn middle school students, brought lively energy to the luncheon.
Immigrant rights were a major theme at the Staten Island conference on Nov. 10. For the first time at the Staten Island event, two workshops were offered in Spanish and both were filled to capacity. The Staten Island district attorney, Michael McMahon, addressed attendees during lunch, focusing on immigrant rights as well as gun control and mental health. Evlyn Nurallah, whose son is a 1st-grader, said she learned “how to get services for kids with learning disabilities” and about resources available at public libraries. “There’s so much available for parents and students that I didn’t know about,” she said. “It’s exciting!”Angela Esposito, a grandparent and parent-teacher association secretary, enjoyed the Manhattan conference on Oct. 27 so much that she “didn’t want to leave.” Esposito said, “We went over our time because that’s how much the parents were enjoying it.” The conference’s theme was Celebrating Diversity and Inclusion in Education. For the first time — along with the workshops, vendors and speakers — the Manhattan conference featured a health fair with free medical screenings. Participants eagerly signed up for every available slot.
Speakers at all the conferences, including UFT President Michael Mulgrew, noted how important it is for parents to join educators in advocating for New York City public schools. Judging by the more than 1,500 engaged parents who gathered at this fall’s conferences, UFT members have strong allies.