by Aundrea Cline-Thomas
NASHVILLE, Tenn. - Every student deserves to have a parent or an adult advocate on their behalf and hold schools accountable.
"They are not to go in and just rubber stamp what the school system is recommending," Julia Parker, MNPS Special Education Coach said.
The adult is there to speak up especially when it's difficult for the student to speak for themselves.
"I can pound on the table or I can be nice," Dr. Richard Call said. "I can do anything a parent can do in a setting and I've done some of those."
Dr. Richard Call has two children of his own, but he's volunteered to be a surrogate parent to as many as 40 students in Metro Schools over the past two decades.
"I had a youngster who had a hearing difficulty," Call explained, "so we were involved in his education for the whole twelve years."
Surrogate parents only work with students with disabilities. Their relationship doesn't extend outside of school.
"When we can't locate the parent after I've done a search and I can't locate them as well," Parker explained, "then I have to appoint a surrogate so there's a parent to represent them."
The surrogates are given legal authority to meet with teachers, oversee the implementation of the student's individual education plan and make sure the district is providing all the resources the student needs.
"Once you get in the meeting and you realize Johnny...needs me at this point," Call said. "I have to step up because he can't."
The program needs more volunteers to ensure that the most special students in Metro still have a voice.
"The important thing is an interest in kids and their welfare," Call said.
Dr. Call said the time commitment is not overwhelming and requires attending a few meetings during school hours. Volunteers have no financial obligation to the students.
Those interested must be at least 19 years old, agree to a background check and attend a three hour training. Volunteers are especially needed in the Antioch cluster.
There is a training session on Friday, April 25, from 8:30 until 12:00 p.m. at Martin Professional Development Center. Reservations must be made so materials can be prepared for each participant. For more information, and to make reservations, please contact:
Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools
Department of Special
Ms. Betty Holmes
2601 Bransford Avenue
Nashville, Tennessee 37204
The deadline to reserve a spot is Tuesday, April 22, 2014.