Q & A with School Board incumbent Omega Parker

By Briana Aguilar
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE

What are some of the ideas that you plan to implement if elected to the Durham Public School Board?

Some of the things I plan to do are things that we have already begun. I would like to continue with some of the initiatives which we have already started.

NECD has a large African American population and the Latino community is growing rapidly. Are there any programs that you’d like to implement into the school system that would reach out to those children regardless of a language barrier?

At the Y.E. Smith School there is an initiative called the Museum School, which is patterned after the Harlem School Zone, that has a diversified population and I think it is important for us to concentrate on the needs of all the children in the schools. After I retired I was a substitute teacher and I came in contact with a diverse population. I did a long term sub position at Creekside School. I was working with students who were English language learners.

It was very rewarding to see how quickly they grasp the information. At Southwest we have the Spanish immersion program. I think it’s important to continue and expand those programs in order to accommodate those students who are English language learners and who have English as a second language.

With so many cutbacks, how do you plan to budget some of your ideas?

The superintendents budgets have not yet become the board’s budget. One of the things that I find important is that we maintain a low teacher to people ratio which would be very helpful. I would like to keep whatever programs are in place to benefit students.

District 1 has been known for high crime rates. How do you plan to keep children in school and out of gang activity?

We hope that we are able to make the schools inviting and engaging so that students will want to come to school. If a child is bored, that child is going to do whatever it can to keep from going to school. We are going to have to keep the kids engaged and wanting to learn so they will want to be in school. [Students in] the Museum School at Y.E. Smith are in school for a longer period of time and that will be helpful too because there are many students who are latch-key kids, who are not getting the supervision or the assistance that they need, for instance, homework or for snacks and meals. This will take care of some of their needs.

At Eastway Elementary we have the Backpack program and we need to expand those programs, to be sure that the students are getting what they need. We need to be sure that those students who are reluctant to let needs known, we need to have social workers finding out what the needs of the students are. We need to have a friendly welcoming atmosphere in the schools so that the students will feel comfortable sharing their needs and wants.

There is a high percentage of children that are homeless. Do you have any plans for these particular children in District 1?

We do have a high percentage of students who are homeless and many of them are in District 1. What I would like to do is to extend the service to these students and this is done through our social workers in the schools. They can provide these students with the needs that they have and we want to keep our social workers because they are the people who go out in the community to work with the families to assess their needs and to help them work through these things. That would be one of the main things I would want to do is maintain services to students and families who are in need.

How do you plan to keep the dialogue open between the board members and the community?

We currently have the Kitchen Table conversations which I feel have been beneficial however they have not been as well attended as I would have liked to have seen them. But that is a mechanism for the community to become involved and hear what they have to say. We also have Be Our Guest each month prior to the board meetings where our students’ parents get an opportunity to speak with the board members on a one-on-one basis to let them know board members are real and we do listen and we want them to know that we do listen.

I feel that by my going to various activities within the school it gives me an opportunity to listen. When I go into the schools I don’t go in to micro-manage, I go in to listen and to communicate and to see. When we are involved in decision making we need to know what some of these things are and we can’t stay at home and in the school board room and find out what is needed. We have to be out there in the community and this is what I constantly do, so I talk to them to find out what it is that we need to do and what they want to say to us, and we listen. When it comes to making a decision based on what is best for all children.

Will you do anything besides serve on the board?

That’s one of the advantages of being retired. I can make myself available within an hour if we have a panel hearing or if I need to meet with someone. My husband and I are they only ones in the home. So I don’t have those responsibilities of feeding the family or doing homework with the children. So I spend my working with other people’s children. I help my church and spend time with my sorority Delta Sigma Theta.

One of my main interests is the elderly. I was a caretaker in a homecare facility to last year and I still maintain my relationship with the residents there. I make it my business to visit with these people and see to their needs like make telephone calls for them.

I’m also very active in my church where we have a Human Dignity Ministry. We have a food pantry that is open at all times for those who are in need. So I spend my time there with my church, with my organizations and with the school board and in the schools.

My grandson is a student at Brogden Middle School and I am there almost 2-3 times a week. As a grandparent I feel it’s my responsibility also to help him be successful. When I go there, I interact with the students there. I might read to a group for students or do a presentation. I did a presentation about the persons for whom the schools were named such as Pearson, C.C. Spaulding, James E. Shepherd, and many of these people are people that I knew. I consider myself the connection between the past, present, and future.

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