The Bed-Stuy Parents Committee is a group of about 250 neighborhood parents who are choosing to work together to help improve the district's schools where they hope to enroll their children. Shaila Dewan, one of the parent organizers, shared advice for those looking to do the same in other parts of the city.
Join parent listservs
We connected primarily on the parent Yahoo listservs in our neighborhood. We put up fliers before meetings—we would send out a link so people could print the fliers themselves and post them. We printed little business cards with our web address to hand out at playgrounds. We built a mailing list using MailChimp. We asked DNAinfo to do an article. Eventually, we found a surprising amount of traffic was driven by word of mouth.
Survey members to gather ideas
We came together without a specific agenda and we explored various options. We listened to what people wanted. One of our members conducted a large member survey and we browbeat people into filling it out until we had almost 90 completed—it's still invaluable to us.
Listen & learn from success stories
Our first few meetings were devoted to listening and learning. Speakers talked to us about subjects of interest, like progressive education. We identified PS 11 in Clinton Hill as a successful model for what we wanted to do in a similar gentrifying neighborhood and we had a panel discussion where PS 11 parents and administrators spoke. We invited the District 16 Community Education Council president and the district superintendent do a Q&A. We closely followed debates over rezoning in Dumbo and the Upper West Side.
Build relationships with school district
We built relationships with our local Community Education Council, our district superintendent (who was very helpful at getting principals to respond to us), and other stakeholders.
Stay on topic!
We try to stay focused. We discourage off-topic posting on the Facebook page. Everything we do now—even providing resources for parents like hosting a talk by the New York School Help Lady—is ultimately in service of our mission.
Build goodwill by supporting schools
We talk a lot about our approach and how to build goodwill. We try to stick to supporting schools in achieving their own goals, rather than trying to dictate goals. We are setting up a volunteer program for specific school projects. We are raising money for microgrants at several schools.