Here's where parents can find answers

As the wife of the superintendent of Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools and the mother of a CMS fifth-grader, I have the opportunity to hear a lot of questions from concerned parents who want to be sure they're doing everything they can to help their children learn and grow.

Many of these questions are shared by all kinds of parents. What can I expect for my child in kindergarten, elementary, middle or high school? What kinds of jobs will be available in the future? How can I help my child prepare for them? How do I make sure my child is computer-literate but protected from the unsavory aspects of the Internet? How can I help my child prepare to succeed in college? How do I manage my finances now to make college affordable later?

All parents have a lot of questions about how best to help their children succeed. Luckily for us, our community has many agencies and organizations that work to answer these questions and share their expertise. Creating a successful student is like balancing a three-legged stool – one leg is strong teachers, one leg is strong principals and others who support the classroom, and the third leg is strong parents. All three legs must work for the stool to stand.

CMS launches Parent University

My husband and the CMS team are working very hard to strengthen those first two legs. But how can we as a community do a better job of strengthening the third leg by connecting parents who have questions with the many community sources that have answers?

Starting this month, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will launch a privately funded initiative that can bring the parents with questions and the people with answers together. It's called Parent University. We want it to become this community's first successful collaborative effort that directly benefits parents and children simultaneously. Strengthening parents means empowering our children.

This is an ambitious goal, but I believe it is possible and it will make a big difference to families in our community. Parent University will offer parents, grandparents or caretakers the chance to learn about four areas – we're calling them strands – of being a parent. All these courses are offered at no cost. They'll be available in a variety of locations.

One strand, Parenting Topics, will provide parents information about how they can support their children's academic opportunities and challenges today.

Helping Your Child Learn in the 21 {+s}{+t} Century is another strand. Did you know that children entering kindergarten today have more computer experience than their parents did by the end of high school? These topics will provide information that can empower parents to raise confident, educated children ready for the 21 {+s}{+t} century.

The third strand relates to Health and Wellness. These offerings will support parents with information and activities to help families build healthy lifestyles physically as well as emotionally.

The last strand is Personal Growth and Development. These topics will help parents to grow personally and professionally, so they can become the most effective advocates for their children.

All families will have access

Parent University isn't just another meeting at the end of the day for parents. It's a series of links that will connect parents with experts in many areas. Parent University classes will be offered in convenient locations around the county, so that all families have access to Parent University.

Some of these course offerings will be available on request, so we can send our experts out to community meetings, churches and workplaces, schools and other organizations. The fall courses begin Sept. 16 and run through Nov. 24. A list of courses and directions for registration are available on the CMS Web site,, or call 980-343-0318 for more information.

Parenting today is harder in some ways than it's ever been and I believe that Parent University can help every parent and every child.