Enrollment is now under way for the first course in the Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI), which includes participation by school and municipal officials in Monroe County, the city of Rochester, the Rochester School District, East and West Irondequoit school districts, Brighton, Greece and Gates-Chili.

An intensive, 20-week leadership course for parents that has won widespread praise in nine states for empowering parents to become more effective advocates for children and families is coming to greater Rochester.

Twenty-five parents will begin the first session of the Greater Rochester Parent Leadership Training Institute (PLTI) this fall. Tuition for the program, dinner and on-site child care will be free for participants.

Carolyn Lee-Davis is coordinator for the local initiative, and said after a press conference held today (Thursday, April 19) in the atrium at Rochester City Hall that the concept originated with a coalition in the community called the Early Childhood Development Initiative.

"We (in the coalition) were looking at the issue of parent engagement and what exists in other areas," Lee-Davis said.

Their investigation led to Connecticut, where PLTI has been successful for 20 years, and has now spread to nine other states.

After a community conversation with parents, child care providers, school district representatives and funders last fall about the PLTI model, there was support for bringing the program here, Lee-Davis said, and a civic design team was formed to put the local effort together.

West Irondequoit Board of Education member and community volunteer Margaret Burns has been part of the civic design team.

"PLTI is a jump start to gaining a deeper knowledge and thorough understanding of the underpinnings of a project," Burns said."It teaches parents how to take organized, thoughtful, collaborative action."

Greater Rochester PLTI has $60,000 in funding in place to offer two 20-week classes in the coming year, Lee-Davis said.

Among the funders are the Rochester Area Community Foundation, the Brighter Days Foundation, the Marie C. and Joseph C. Wilson Foundation, the City of Rochester, the Rochester City School District, and individual donors.

"The Rochester Area Community Foundation supports anything that increases civic engagement in the Rochester area," said President Jennifer Leonard. "PLTI gives parents the knowledge and skills to work with community leaders."

The first class this fall will involve parents from the city of Rochester and the "inner ring" suburbs of Greece, Gates-Chili, Irondequoit and Brighton and their school districts.

The West Irondequoit School District has also developed, with parent-teacher organizations, a list of 36 names of parents who might benefit from or be interested in the program, said West Irondequoit Superintendent of Schools Jeff Crane.

"But what this comes down to is that we are the greater Rochester community and we are public education ... and this will help all parents and all students. It's a better way of understanding schools and accessing services and we think it will only help students to continue to achieve at the highest levels."

"Parents are already seeing the problems," Lee-Davis said. "This (PLTI) gives them the tools to take action."