Monica Coke Talks To Reva Klein. Monica Coke is a public relations officer at West Midlands Development Agency. She has been a governor (co-opted from industry) since 1988 and is currently chair of governors at Montgomery Primary School in Sparkbrook, Birmingham. She is on the steering committee of the new National Governors Council and has one son who is now in sixth- form college.
Why did you become a governor?
My son was one of a few African-Caribbean children in his predominately white school and was slow at starting to read. I sent him to a private school. Other black parents who were not in a position to do this found their children being labelled. I wanted to know more about schools and help other parents.
I've come across many African-Caribbean parents who have been at their wits' end because their children are considered to be difficult and boisterous, particularly those from one-parent families.
I have been able to put them in touch with professionals who can help. I've told them to get involved with the school and become governors themselves. Community is a particularly important issue for black parents.
What is your most important contribution as a governor?
Knowing my own culture and community and, as the only African-Caribbean on the governing body, linking with other communities within the school.
What is the principal role of governors?
To help staff make sure that children fulfil their potential and get their fair share, irrespective of race, religion and gender. They should also monitor children's progress and make sure that assessment, statementing, planning and resources are in place. And they should ensure that the school has respect for the community around it.
What is the one thing you would change if you could?
The consultation process. Far too often laws change but there is no process of discussing with governors how they feel about the changes. There needs to be better communication between governors, local authorities and the Department for Education.
From where do you get the most help and support?
The governors' support unit in Birmingham is very good. We have excellent training and the staff are helpful. And there is a lot of support from other governors and the teachers and head. It's so important to start off on the right foot with your head and teachers.
What do you enjoy least?
Going to governors' meetings when they don't all turn up. We should share work more.
What should governors never do?
Act as individuals. They're there as part of a group. Neither should they ever show disrespect.