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DeKalb resident helms parent education center, community

Most of Chamblee resident Phyllis Austin’s time is spent serving, supporting, educating and helping parents create a quality education.

“Many parents don’t know what a quality education looks like,” Austin said. “Education is about the school and the home working together.”

Austin, a Chicago native and former DeKalb County teacher, is the head of both In My Shoes and The National Parent Education Center & Community, two 501(c)3 organizations advocating for better education in DeKalb County.

The main way of achieving better local education, Austin said, is to teach parents how to become involved. The National Parent Education Center & Community’s main objectives are to educate parents on the ins and outs of education, teach parents how to recognize a quality education and create a quality education.

“We quarrel over giving students homework, over not giving students homework, that there’s not enough time in the day to deliver lesson plans,” Austin said. “It minimizes the role of parents in developing essential knowledge skills.”

Services offered by The National Parent Education Center & Community include consultation about a specific issue; writing letters; advocating for a specific cause; parent education seminars; and hosting workshops for community groups such as a parent-teacher organization, church group or school council.

Austin said lessons from The National Parent Education Center & Community involve navigating bureaucracy.

“Some schools are open about their information and some schools are closed,” Austin said. “The important thing is to recognize the people in leadership roles who are gatekeepers to parental knowledge.”

Austin said she was inspired to found the organization after moving from Chicago and noticing her son received higher grades for less work. Her son, according to Austin, was rewarded for adhering to a “whole language approach” in the classroom, despite his inability to spell.

“My son’s father and I attended the school’s open house,” Austin said. “During the event, my son’s teacher approached us—she was very nice. We sat down and the teacher began showing us our son’s grades: A’s and B’s. She was very delighted to inform us that our son made the academic honor roll. I remember looking at his teacher in a state of puzzlement and asking, ‘How? Why? He can’t spell. You didn’t notice?’ I told my son that we were going to stick with the standards from his former state [Illinois] and that our expectations are higher than those of Georgia.”

Since 2001, Austin said she has helped parents focus on what’s needed to become a community stakeholder and demand more of the powers-that-be. She credits her son’s success to holding schools to her own personal standards, providing additional learning tools and assignments and advocating.

“The legal law is to provide a standard, core-based education,” Austin said. “The more apt we are to understand how to be involved, the more as parents we can contribute. The more you know about your child’s education, the better a parent you can be.”

Austin said Georgia’s public school systems often suffer from low standards, low expectations, grade inflation, inadequate curriculums, a willingness to mislead parents about their child’s abilities and a willingness to lie to students about their own ability.

Much of Austin’s advice can be found in her three books: Daily Affirmations for Students, From Parent to Power, God Has not Forogotten You, and Permission to Be Great.

Austin said her work combines spirituality with practical knowledge about education.

“[From Parent to Power] is the only book that places educational concepts in a book with spiritual concepts,” Austin said. “It addresses emotional issues and other issues, all in the mission of uniting, educating and elevating parents to greatness.”

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