The Selma Elementary School Advisory Council wants Johnston school leaders to make it easier for parents to become involved in their children’s schools.
Last month, Advisory Council chairman Dicky Parrish asked the Johnston County Board of Education to alter policies that make it hard for some parents to volunteer in the schools. Specifically, he asked the board to try to make room for parents who aren’t computer literate and who don’t have Social Security numbers.
In Johnston, a parent can apply to be either a Level I or Level II volunteer. Level I volunteers fill roles that don’t require direct supervision of children; they proctor tests, join their children on field trips, speak to classes about their jobs. Level I volunteers require only approval from the school’s principal.
Level II volunteers can tutor children one on one, chaperone field trips and coach sports teams, but they must first undergo criminal background checks.
“We understand the policy and don’t have any problem with it,” said Parrish, a Selma dentist and former school board chairman. “People need to be vetted if they’re volunteers, but this is a little different situation here.”
At Selma Elementary, Parrish noted, more than half of the student body is Latino, and many parents don’t have Social Security numbers, which are required to become a Level II volunteer. Parrish asked the board to see how it might accommodate those parents without compromising student safety.
“We’re not saying they need to drop them,” he said of background checks. “We’re saying we don’t have many people with Social Security numbers that we can do a background check on.”
Parrish also noted that many Selma parents don’t have Internet access, which keeps them from registering online to volunteer in the schools.
School board Chairman Larry Strickland said he would refer Parrish’s request to the board’s policy committee and seek input from the board’s attorney.
In Johnston County, the Latino student population has climbed seven percentage points since the 2007-08 school year. Latinos make up more than 50 percent of the student population at three schools – Selma Elementary, Selma Middle and West Smithfield Elementary. At Smithfield-Selma High School, 34 percent of the student population is Latino.
Before Parrish spoke to the board, the online registration form asked all would-be volunteers for a Social Security number. After the meeting, the schools changed the form to indicate that only Level II volunteers need to provide a Social Security number.
Selma Elementary Principal Suzanne Mitchell welcomed the change. “Because of the quick action on that by HR essential services, I’m going to have three parents who have been approved as a Level I, and they are going to be able to go into a field trip next week,” she said.
Staff writer Nash Dunn contributed to this report.