If you would like to make a donation in memory of Beverly Nickell Raimondo, Director Emeritus of the Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership. Please click here.
In 1991, Raimondo left a career in management at IBM in Lexington to join Bob Sexton at the Prichard Committee and to coordinate community and grassroots support for implementation of the recently enacted school reform efforts. Her own experiences as a parent sparked an interest in improving the link between schools and families.
Upon joining the Prichard Committee, she organized more than 60 Community Committees for Education in more than 90 school districts to build understanding and support for the Kentucky Education Reform Act of 1990. She later coordinated and implemented the dialogue process called Parents and Teachers Talking Together (PT3), which has reached more than 12,000 participants.
In 1996, Raimondo proposed the idea of in-depth parent leadership training and by 1997 was leading development of the training curriculum and recruiting parents for the new Prichard Committee initiative. The Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership caught on with state and national foundations that provided funding to offer the program free to participants. The institutes drew a long list of applicants and expanded Prichard’s partnerships with education groups across the state.
In an interview following her retirement, Raimondo said the program was built on the idea that parents want detailed information and serious ways to be involved in school, which proved to be true. “I have always insisted on high expectations for parents,” she said. “We were holding students to higher expectations and we were holding educators to higher expectations and accountability. We had to hold parents to higher expectations. This was even hard for some of our staff because they were reluctant to ‘push’ volunteers. But, we developed a curriculum that explains the Kentucky education system to the parents involved, provided their school’s data in a format they could quickly grasp, introduced them to skills for engaging parents and meeting with school people, introduced them to other education resources, and required them to work with us for up to two years to design and implement a project that involves other parents, focuses on improving student achievement, and has a lasting impact.”
Since its inception, the program — now known as the Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership — has produced over 2,100 Fellows across Kentucky. Many participants went on to be elected to local school councils and school boards and even became appointees to the state Board of Education. The institutes are an annual fixture, with sessions planned this fall in Eastern Kentucky, Northern Kentucky and Jefferson County.