As a relative newlywed in Sully District looking forward to starting a family, I know when I become a parent I want to be involved in my children’s education. I want the Fairfax County Public Schools to make it possible for me and so many other current and future parents to play this active role. There are a great many reasons why but the following three stand out as particularly relevant.

First, children spend their formative years in school but they are only students for a few years. They are members of the community for their whole lives. Generally, students spend 13 years in school and then the next 60 working, living, and raising families of their own. After they complete their education, our children will join our community as employees, colleagues, patrons, and neighbors. Their early years are very important for developing skills that will allow them to thrive in this environment. No people are in a better position to help prepare them for this transition than parents and other adults who live and work in the community.

Second is the proper role of schools. Schools fill a vital role in preparing students for life’s many challenges, but even the best system in the world cannot deliver a complete developmental experience without the involvement of parental figures and real-world community exposure. It is unfair to ask and expect FCPS alone to prepare children to lead fulfilling and successful lives. Schools, parents, and important community mentors must work together to foster an effective educational experience. The involvement of parents and mentors can shape education in essential ways, from learning life skills such as financial literacy to learning about the opportunities to serve the community.

Third, educators must be realistic about their role in preparing students for careers. Our curricula must prioritize developing useful skills that are in demand in their community, and for that, they need community participation. It’s no secret that Millennials and GenZers, the most recent graduates from the school systems, are having a much harder time finding success and fulfillment in society than previous generations. The school system is in a unique position to help students prepare for a changing society with new challenges, especially if the system cooperates with parents and community members who have insight and experience with these issues.

Though it may hurt some feelings, we must never forget that school is about one thing: our children’s future. Toward this end, parents, school officials, and other community members must be willing to work together or risk the education of our children and the health of the future of the community.

Mac Reed is a lawyer in Fairfax County.  He and his wife live in Sully District.

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