Hitting the Airwaves 

New radio-show host talks parent-to-parent about school issues.

Beverly Owens knows you can get an education at the Memphis City Schools (MCS). In fact, during the past several months, this parent of three city school students has gotten an education herself: in radio.

"They have worked me to death," Owens said of the district's telecommunications department. "I've had to practice every other day, sometimes every day. We did about 20 mock shows. I had to learn how to watch the clock and what my cues were."

The executive director of the parent organization Parents for Public Schools, Owens is also the host of the recently debuted Parent Talk show on WQOX-FM 88.5, "the voice of MCS." She hopes that the show will help parents get involved in the school district.

"We lose a lot of parents in middle and high school. It's nice to read to my daughter's class in second grade, but I'm not going to do that for a class in seventh grade," she said. Unlike many other programs associated with the schools -- such as Adopt-A-School or volunteer tutoring -- Parents for Public Schools for parents, not students.

"We want [parents] to volunteer in the schools and all that, but we really want them to help make decisions for the district," said Owens. For example, last year the group came out in full force when the district proposed changing the opening times of several schools.

"We showed up at two or three board meetings and [then] superintendent [Johnnie] Watson had no choice but to withdraw his proposal," said Owens. "No one ever came to us and said, 'We're going to talk about this.'"

Owens was looking for publicity for the organization last October when someone told her to contact the district's telecommunications department. After they told her about the possibility of a talk show, she put together a proposal for Parent Talk even though she didn't have any radio experience.

Her first show included two parents talking about how important it is to be involved, especially for fathers and male role models. After that show, she had school superintendent Carol Johnson as a guest.

She doesn't plan to stick exclusively to district school news, however. Instead, she plans to take on any topic she thinks parents need to know. One show focused how to file your taxes.

"I don't want to be censored. I don't work for the district," Owens said. "I'm a parent and there are some things I want to know as a parent. These are things other parents want to know too."

E-mail: cashiola@memphisflyer.com

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