Alameda Community Learning Center: Parent Participatory Democracy Program « Center on Educational Governance (CEG)

Alameda Community Learning Center: Parent Participatory Democracy Program

Alameda Community Learning Center:
Parent Participatory Democracy Program

Alameda Community Learning Center

Alameda, California
Founded 2001
204 students
Grades 6-12
Site-based 59% White, 10% African-American, 11% Asian, 8% Hispanic, 12% Other
3% English language learners
10% Special needs
10% Receive subsidized meals Teachers part of collective bargaining unit

Source: Center on Educational Governance, 2006.

According to its charter, Alameda Community Learning Center’s focus is on self-directed, experiential learning, collaborative learning, student voice and educational equity in a technology-rich environment. Parents model for students how participation can produce change and improvement.

ACLC’s Parent Participatory Democracy Program springs from the belief that parental involvement is an essential component of academic success, no matter what age the student is. The program’s goal is to provide their students, grades 6 to 12, with the skills necessary for active participation in the world.

Parents participate in three committees, which focus on governance, fund raising and organization of social activities and enrichment programs. Each committee has a minimum number of parent seats. Students who serve on these committees can see community and democracy in action.

“Working toward school improvement means you’re always improving academic opportunities for students,” an ACLC parent has said.


The Parent Participatory Democracy Program has two goals: to enrich student learning and to enhance the sense of community. To that end, parents serve on three committees.

Two parents serve on the nine-member ACLC Governing Board, which oversees strategic planning; budget monitoring and determination; day-to-day operations and facilities; personnel management; and recruitment of staff and students. Two students elected by the student body also serve on this committee.

The Creative Community Education Foundation (501c3) is the financial board that decides how to raise and spend money. It’s comprised of eight parents, two students, the lead facilitator (teacher) and up to five community members.

Many functions of the Parent Asset Committee (PAC) resemble those of a traditional PTA, organizing guest speakers, field trips, alumni databases, community outreach and graduation activities. All ACLC parents fill out a commitment form declaring ways they wish to volunteer; a PAC committee member coordinates parent volunteering using the responses.

Teachers have said that parent resources expand what’s taught, naming a trip to Berkeley and Yosemite as an example.

Requirements Of Parent Participatory Democracy Program

No extra funding is required to operate the program. If funds are required for a specific cause, such as a luncheon in honor of volunteer parents, the financial committee will generate the money through fund-raisers or other activities.

Lessons Learned

“Any major decision takes a long time because we are run so democratically,” the lead facilitator has said.

On occasion, very involved parents may not understand the difference between empowerment and entitlement. “Sometimes parents feel that because they are a valued piece of the school, their voices should be heard over others,” the lead facilitator has said. “We have to keep an eye on the program as a whole.”

Another challenge is to engage lower-income and minority parents. “If we hope to close the achievement gap we must work hard to change this socially reproductive trend in parent involvement,” said Michael De Sousa, ACLC science and leadership facilitator.


Inspired by the concept “it takes a village to raise a child,” ACLC’s Parent Participatory Democracy Program provides ownership of the school to parents, students and community members. This involvement truly impacts the core of the educational experience.

ACLC’s API has remained above 800 for three years while student enrollment has steadily increased, and the state has rated the school a 10.

The school also maintains a 95 percent attendance rate for all students and nearly a 100 percent graduation for all seniors, who go on to attend UC schools and private universities.


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