by Guillermo Gomez, vice president of urban affairs
Recently, Chicago Public Schools CEO Jean-Claude Brizard met with parents in HSC’s Parents United for Healthy Schools/Padres Unidos para Escuelas Saludables coalition to talk about wellness in the city’s schools. It was a thoughtful conversation about a wide range of issues that shape wellness, from recess and physical activity to healthy eating, school facilities, and prioritizing wellness in discussions of a longer school day.
Across all these issues, though, I heard one fundamental message: parent engagement matters for school wellness.
CEO Brizard put it this way: “I understand the power of parent engagement. Today, parent involvement in the schools is critical.”
Parent leaders shared their experiences creating wellness teams and supporting school-level changes such as bringing back recess and creating school-wide policies on healthy eating. Parents talked about how these changes support their own values and the type of healthy lifestyle they want for their children. CEO Brizard shared his perspective as a district leader as well as his own experience as a parent working to connect with his child’s teachers and school administrators around issues he cares about.
He encouraged parents to continue speaking up at schools and at this district level, to not be discouraged if they start out with only a few other advocates. A group of just five parents with a compelling idea, he said, can make a real impact.
The parent leaders in Parents United are doing just that, supporting physical activity and healthy eating at schools across the city. In fact, these parents have been pioneers in advocating for health and wellness in Chicago schools since 2006. This meeting provided an opportunity for parents making change at the school level to connect with a leader who is making change at the district level. I was encouraged by the exchange of ideas and happy to see the shared commitment to parent leadership and student wellness. I hope this dialogue continues in the months ahead and that we will be able to bring about even more health-promoting changes at schools and in the district as a whole.
Stay posted for more reflections on this meeting from parent leaders.