As a parent, you have the greatest opportunity to create the most impact on your neighborhood school and your own children.

Recently, San Diego schools like Jefferson Elementary and Roosevelt Middle have started to improve mostly because of local parents’ decision to stay in their neighborhoods and get involved. Parents at these schools stepped up to form foundations where none existed before. They organized fundraisers and meetings with other neighborhood parents who were weighing school choices for their own children.

Most importantly, they saw their local schools as vital community assets worthy of investment. Friends of Jefferson founder An Bui echoed my own sentiments in San Diego Uptown News: “If we could get a critical mass of local families to send their children to the neighborhood school and get these parents involved, we could bring about change.”

READ MORE: There Goes the Neighborhood: Parents on Why They Opt Out of Local Schools

Although it is certainly easier to move schools than to help make your local school better, parents who choice away could have been the catalyst for change. Time spent driving your child to another school could have been time spent in conversation with the principal, discovering the struggles of your school and finding solutions. The few dollars you would spend on gas could be given to your neighborhood school for supplies.

But I understand that not all parents have the capacity to help. It takes both participation and money to make change happen. And as Scott Lewis wrote, schools in wealthier areas of San Diego fare better than schools in lower-income areas. Parents may have multiple jobs and limited time and resources to invest in their schools.

According to a 2008 study funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation called “One Dream, Two Realities,” only 42 percent of parents from low-performing schools said they were as involved in their child’s education as they should be, compared with 68 percent of high-performing school parents. The actual participation rates vary but parents from all backgrounds understand the importance of being involved in their child’s education.

I also recognize parents choose schools for a variety of reasons including safety, special programs and friendships. But before you turn around and walk away from your neighborhood school, think about the impact you can make. Whether it is by donating your time to help with a fundraiser, spending time rallying other parents to get more aftercare options on campus, helping paint over graffiti or giving money so your school can have paper in the copier, every bit helps.

Not only will you be making the school and community better for your own child, you will be improving it for all of the children in your community for years to come. And because your child saw you stand up for your community, one day he may stand up for his own.

Sara Morrison is the membership director at the San Diego History Center in Balboa Park. She and her family live and are active participants in the North Park community. Morrison’s commentary has been edited for style and clarity. See anything in there we should fact check? Tell us what to check out here.


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