EDUCATION SPOTLIGHT: Donna ISD implements parent academy, graduates first cohort


Donna ISD became the first in the Rio Grande Valley to implement its own facilitators to run the Parent Academy for Success of Schools (PASOS) training program and graduate its first cohort of parents.

Parent Educator Angela Garza said she is proud to be part of the first group facilitators to teach the class.

“It’s been a wonderful experience teaching the parents,” Garza said. “We did an evaluation of five questions and we had a lot of positive comments from the parents. They really enjoyed the sessions and they learned a lot. They especially liked the hands-on activities.”

The class was recognized during a graduation ceremony April 29. The parents came decked out in caps and gowns and heard from various speakers including two valedictorians they personally choose to represent them. Baldemar Garza spoke on behalf of the English-speaking parents and Isabel Vega spoke on behalf of the Spanish speakers.

For 10 weeks, the participants underwent intense, hands-on workshops designed to teach them how to help their children improve academic performance and build stronger relations with the school district. The parents also learned critical information for the academic success of their children, the importance of creating a bridge between home and school, what classes are important and needed for students planning to attend college, how grades are used for college admittance and how to communicate with school administrators and teachers.

Garza said the program has done wonders for him, his wife and son Adan. The 14-year-old attends Veterans Middle School.

“We have a lot of the answers inside of us,” Garza said. “PASOS reinforces what parents already know but don’t have the right tools to go about helping our children succeed. We may feel we should be spending a lot more time with our son or daughter or that we should be more informed about what’s going on in our children’s school. PASOS gives us the foundation as to how to go about having these conversations. It teaches us how to approach an administrator and our children. If we think our kids are going through difficult times, PASOS shows us what symptoms to look out for. It’s a great program.”

Garza said his son has also benefited from the program.

“I think he’s learned how to communicate,” Garza said. “He’s learned how to ask me questions and how to think of his answers. It’s not just ‘how is school? Well, it’s alright. What did you do? Oh, nothing.’ Now, he talks about what they did in science and what they did in math. So, the program is teaching him how to express himself and communicate better.”

The district’s Parental Involvement Director Tomas Tamez said that prior to the district implementing its own facilitators, the Texas Valley Community Foundation would administer the 10 workshops which will no longer be necessary.

“Now that we have our own personnel trained we will be able to recruit more parents to go through the program,” Tamez said. “My goal is to expand the program and have two cohorts next year, one in the fall and one in the spring. It’s a great opportunity for families to take advantage of and learn from.”