Dorothy McGhee: High school parent, activist

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Dorothy McGhee

Dorothy McGhee

Dorothy McGhee’s sons attend University of Chicago Charter High at Wadsworth and DuSable Leadership Academy. “My main concern was, and still is, that they could maneuver safely in the city—that is, get to school and back home without getting killed,” McGee says. “I made a conscious choice to place my boys in an educational environment that’s Afrocentric, so they could get some of the things they need as young black men. But I feel that I’ve had to work extra hard to get something that should be natural: a high-quality education.” McGhee is a parent leader with the Grand Boulevard Federation.

MAKING SCHOOLS SAFER

[CPS] has to be aware of what’s happening—what gangs are thriving, where these gangs are located. If they don’t have the resources to deal with the problem, reach out to professionals, like Cease Fire [a non-profit group that works against gang violence]. Conflict resolution is important. Some kids are not taught at home how to deal with certain situations and they tend to lash out.

[Schools] should inform parents if they see anything out of the ordinary with a child. It should be dealt with right away by the school counselor or by having the parent come to the school.

BOOSTING PARENT INVOLVEMENT

Feeling welcome is key. I’ve experienced schools that have been really welcoming, and schools that have security guards and it’s like you’re trying to see the president. The key is to really, really push for participation and let parents know that they’re welcome. If you do that, they’ll participate.

OPEN DOOR POLICY

I expect that if I send my kid to a particular school and I’m following the rules and regulations, I should be able to see my child or visit my child. I haven’t had problems getting into schools, because I’ve been able to talk my way into the building. But parents who aren’t able to do that should still have that right.

GETTING INTO NEW SCHOOLS

I’ll give you an example of why parents may need help: I was in a particular school sitting on a bench and an older lady came in and said, “I understand that I can get an application at this school for my grandchild to go to a charter.” The person at the desk told her, “I’m sorry, we don’t have any.” I said to myself, if they’re advertising that you can come in and pick up the application, then why is it that this lady can’t get one? I pulled the lady to the side and told her to wait a moment, and I went over and asked for an application. I received one. That should not have occurred, but it does. If you’re not able to speak for yourself, sometimes you’re left out.