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Juanita Coleman-Merritt

Executive Director

Ed.D. – Pepperdine University
M.A. – Cal State Dominguez Hills
M.S. – Bank Street College of Education
B.A. – Barnard College

I was a Classroom Teacher for over 25 years – I absolutely loved the work. So much so, that I often forgot to pick up my paycheck on payday! After m first five years teaching, I gradually found myself drawn into leadership activities. I wrote grants so that our grade level or the students in the school could participate in special Science and Social Studies programs such as the Mini-Planetarium or the Traveling Colonial American Experience. I found myself organizing and managing the programs while they were on campus. I worked with grade level teams to develop school-wide musical festivals and eventually became a Title I Coordinator. My Principal invited me to become her Assistant Administrator for Summer School Programs. She actually paid for me to attend the California School Leadership Academy for two years. The program encouraged teacher leaders to train for School Administration.

In 2000, I completed a Master’s degree in Educational Administration and realized that I was in a “student” frame of mind. I had long considered obtaining a doctoral degree, but had never investigated what would be involved. My husband was serving as a Mentor and Committee Member for a doctoral candidate at Pepperdine University and suggested that I talk with the candidate, who seemed to like her program. He introduced me to Jackie Scott – she and her fellow student, Thelma J. Day, had lunch with me to share their thoughts about Pepperdine’s Graduate School of Education and Psychology. They also invited me to a support group meeting. That organization was the Association of Pan African Doctoral Scholars. Realizing that this was a group of 20-30 Black men and women, all of whom either had earned doctorates or were working toward earning one, I thought, “I can do this!” I applied to Pepperdine, enrolled in the Organizational Leadership Program and joined APADS. I’ve been a member ever since.

As I worked towards my Doctorate, I found the support of my colleagues was helpful in these ways:

  • Accountability – once a month I had to share my progress: I felt the need to have accomplished something keenly.

  • Excellent tips for consistent progress e.g. backwards planning template, a notebook ever-ready for ideas that popped into my head.

  • Colleagues who cared enough to read and critique aspects of my dissertation draft or consider roadblocks I might encounter and offer ideas for solutions.

The title of my dissertation was Parents as Partners in Education Program of the Academic English Mastery Program (I roll meAEMP) in LAUSD. My research was based on the work of four theories: James Comer’s School Development Program; Joyce Epstein’s Theory of Overlapping Spheres of Influence and the Typology of Parent Involvement; and Vivian Johnson’s Parent Center Concept.

The results of my research showed that the program study have a positive effect on student achievement and parent satisfaction. A comparison of the students’ GPAs and parents’ reported level of involvement in AEMP revealed that the higher the level of parent involvement, the higher the students’ GPAs. Important parent outcomes included access to educational information, understanding of the school goals and parent role and the motivation for greater involvement. A major finding was the importance of collaborative, comprehensive planning, that integrates the operation of the parent program with the instructional program and sustains its effectiveness during times of transition.

The implications for educational instructions are that effective implementation of parent engagement strategies can have significant positive effects on overall student performance and educational excellence.

In the 18 years since I joined APADS, I completed the degree, participate as a Critical Friend or Mentor for several students/candidates, and became Treasurer and Board Member in 2005. As Treasurer, it has been my pleasure to account for all dues and donations received, bank them and keep records that are available at any time, for President or Board inspection. I have researched Certificates of Deposit and purchased those products that seemed to give the organization the highest returns. And I have paid the bills and filed our tax documents to maintain our 501(c)(3) status!

In 2005, I was appointed Parent Ombudsperson for Local District 8, the southernmost educational district of Los Angeles Unified School District. It was, for me, a dream job – outside of classroom teaching. I could not think of any position I would rather have in the field of education than bringing together educators and parents to support the children we share.

What was especially exciting about my job was the fact that the position allowed me to implement some of the key findings of my doctoral dissertation. I had just completed the dissertation, which studied a program in Los Angeles Unified School District called the Academic English Mastery Program (AEMP). AEMP had developed one of the most forward-thinking parent components that I had experienced. However, the program was only in a handful of schools. During my literature review, I had also encountered the work of Dr. Joyce Epstein, a Professor at John Hopkins University, who proposed and facilitated school family and community partnerships to support the academic achievement of all students, especially our most vulnerable children.

In the four years I spent as Parent Ombudsperson, my Staff supported the creation of over 30 parent centers in the District, and a Parent Center Institute that provided monthly trainings for the Parent Community Liaisons who coordinated them, as well as school leaders, Title I and English Language Acquisition Coordinators, and parents. We also developed Parent-Teacher Home Visit Programs and facilitated our schools’ participation in the Million Father March – a national effort to increase the active engagement of men in the educational lives of their children. I absolutely loved my job!

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