Schools Improve When Parents Care

I wanted to share this short story that Rob Kirkbride, a Grand Rapids walker and blogger, wrote about my daughter, Kimberly Kelly Waalkes. Yes, it makes me very proud of how Kim prioritizes her time, but it also makes a very good case for where to start if we really want to improve our public schools. – Dick

Day 145 – 8.06 miles (965.17 total)

I am constantly amazed by the number of people who give of themselves, who volunteer and help the community with little or no fanfare. I walked with one of those people today.

I first met Kim Waalkes at City High School, where my son, Liam and her daughter, Erika are entering sophomore year in high school. She seemed to be everywhere — PTSA meetings, helping at school functions like the annual City High auction and other school events and meetings.

Simply put, she is one of those parents that you want volunteering at your kid’s school. This year, Kim will be president of the City High PTSA (a position held by Wayne Glatz for the two years prior, another parent who has given so much time and energy to the school).

Kim and I walked two hours today and talked about our families and upcoming school events and issues. It was a really fun walk and the two hours passed quickly. We walked the length of Riverside Park and made it past Fifth Third Ballpark before we turned around for the return trip.

Our family is lucky to send our children to some of the best schools in West Michigan (and the state, for that matter). City High consistently ranks among the top schools in Michigan. Daisy is going to Blandford School in the fall, one of the most amazing school years a child could ever imagine. Gwen will be at C.A. Frost for kindergarten, a unique school that focuses on the environment. In the past, we sent our children to the Grand Rapids Child Discovery Center, an incredible school with caring, wonderful teachers that uses the Reggio Emilia model of teaching.

The secret to improving schools is not to push more money at problems (though the Grand Rapids Public Schools could certainly use more of it). The secret is parent involvement. All the schools we have been part of have amazingly dedicated parents who care about their children and the quality of the schools that they attend.

They are filled with people like Kim Waalkes and her husband Jon, people who give of themselves so all of the students can succeed, not just their own. Our schools do not need federal programs like No Child Left Behind or state tests like MEAP to measure success. Our schools need parents who care.

[Link to original article...]


  1. John Hoyle says:


    Besides yourself, don’t you have any ne’er-do-wells in your family? Jeez, Dick, you have a beautiful wife. You have your beautiful, smart, hard-working, socially conscious daughter and son, their spouses, and, of course, your beautiful granddaughters.

    As always, Sharon and I send our good wishes to all of your family and want you to know that we enjoy hearing about their good fortune and fine accomplishments. Helen must have done a really great job raising them!

    Kidding, of course – we know how much you love your family. You have every right to be proud.

  2. Diane Davies says:

    What a great, honest and appropriate tribute. Cheers to all!

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