Thursday, July 16, 2009 | David Page says the problem is that parents are on their own. Teachers have a union. So do principals. School board members get to vote plans up or down and top administrators make decisions in the salmon-pink offices of San Diego Unified.
But parents are often too intimidated to speak up or too star-struck with school staffers to question them, Page said. Education is a world loaded with its own numbing lingo — categorical funding, supplement not supplant, program improvement — and it seems overwhelming to understand it, let alone to fight it.
“They think, ‘They make six figures and they’re educated. Who am I to second guess them?'” Page said.
Yet Page has done just that. If parents at the poorer schools in San Diego Unified did have a union, he might be their leader, with all the fans and foes that entails. Seventeen years after the father of six first walked into a parents’ meeting at Ross Elementary in Kearny Mesa, unsure of his rights and unfamiliar with the jargon, Page has become a human encyclopedia on the rules that govern funds for disadvantaged kids and a dogged fighter for parents in communities sometimes left out of decisions.
He is one of the few parents across the state that jets to Sacramento for meetings of the state Board of Education, pores over complex regulations on education spending, and explains it all to befuddled parents at the school district committee that oversees funds for children in poverty, which he has led for six years. Page also leads the nonprofit California Association of Compensatory Education and sits on the board of the Family Area Network, which advises the state on parent involvement.
“He is the poster child for parent involvement. You couldn’t ask for more,” said Rae Belisle, a member of the state Board of Education. “And I know his school district may or may not agree — being held accountable is not a pleasant thing.”