Parents for Public Schools (PPS) is accepting applications for their 2013 Parent Engagement Program (PEP) in the east central area of Mississippi. Only 30 people are selected from all parents, community members, and child caregivers in an area spanning approximately 10 counties. Anyone interested in improving academic achievement and willing to reach out to involve others in that process are strongly encouraged to apply.

The training, sponsored by Parents for Public Schools National Organization (PPS) and formerly known as the Parent Leadership Institute (PLI), is entering its third year in the east central Mississippi area. So far, 54 parents from this area have been trained to recognize, value, and prioritize quality public education, and are involving others to help identify and reduce barriers to learning. Many parents are starting Learning Communities where parents come together to choose educational issues or topics they want to explore deeper in order to improve learning in their homes, communities or schools. Parent and community driven Learning Communities help them understand information better so they can make informed decisions about their children's education. It's a very grassroots, bottom-up approach to improving MS' public schools. Parents and other community members are finding that they can do far more than just raise money for their children's schools. They are realizing that they aren't just passive consumers of education, but are actually owners of their public schools and are using the Parent Engagement Program (PEP) to increase their capacity to be equal partners in their child's education experience.

PPS trained parents raise standards, solve problems, and advocate for quality education in their communities. The PEP curriculum is very interactive, challenging those in the class to engage families, schools, and communities to make decisions together to strengthen and improve education for all children.

Examples of PEP topics are:

Starting community conversations about school transformation

Bringing parents and teachers together to address education issues

Engaging parents for outstanding schools

Recruiting and selecting effective school board members, teachers, and administrators

Understanding and using data and accountability to drive decision-making

PEP teaches parents, and others in the community, how to use specific processes for making data-driven decisions to improve their public schools, helps them identify specific educational needs in their community, and finally to engage other families and community stakeholders to actively and strategically work together to improve learning for more students in their homes, communities, and/or schools.

The 2013 PEP class will be selected through an application process that primarily targets parents who have demonstrated leadership potential and are committed to improving student achievement. "We always look, first, for parents of public school children or parents with children soon entering school age, but we don't limit the training to parents. Our first two classes contained parents of school age children, a local Mayor, several sitting school board members, teachers, social workers, economic development professionals, pastors, etc., some of whom no longer had school age children, but all of whom were passionate about strengthening and improving their public schools," says Becky Glover, one of five Parent Coaches working with parents in MS for PPS National. "We want to fill this 2013 PEP class with a diverse group of people who are passionate about improving education for their children."

Chiquita Jones, a 2012 graduate from Philadelphia, MS, says, "I applied because I'm concerned about our schools. Both my parents worked for Philadelphia public schools. I'm a graduate of these schools, myself, and now my children are students at Philadelphia Elementary School. I have many reasons for wanting Philadelphia public schools to be the very best they can be. This training through PPS, along with parents from other communities in the class with me, has inspired me to be a voice for improvement in our education system."

This year's PEP training will take place at beautiful Lake Tiak-O'Khata, in Louisville, MS. PEP consists of two required sessions: October 11-13 and December 6-7. Persons selected for the 2013 PEP class will attend both sessions. The training is free and helps schools receiving Title I funds meet their criteria for parent and community involvement. Hotel accommodations, meals, and training materials for all PEP class members are provided by PPS.

The easiest and quickest way to apply is online at the PPS National website: You can also call or text Becky Glover at 601-207-2209 or email her at Individuals or groups who have questions or want to schedule a brief meeting with Glover are encouraged to contact her as soon as possible.

PPS is a national non-profit organization of community-based chapters working with public school parents and other supporters to improve and strengthen local public schools.