An invitation for parents to get involved

Published 8:59 pm Thursday, March 8, 2012

By Dewey Schara

Neveln Elementary Principal

There are a wide range of ways parents can “partner” with their child’s school:

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According to the book “Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships,” the author states, “The more the relationship between families and the school is a real partnership, the more student achievement increases.”

I would like to offer a range of suggestions for parents who are wondering what they can do to participate in the “partnership.” Parents, guardians and family members might be surprised how many options there are for partnering.

One of the most direct sources of information and participation a parent can have is joining your school’s Parent Teacher Committee. Each elementary and Ellis middle school have one. The PTC not only raises funds for their school, they are also an advisory committee of sorts. I usually give a “sneak peek” into upcoming events or changes at the school during my PTC meetings. I know other principals do the same. The PTC allows parents to share ideas for their school with the principal. If there are questions or concerns, this is a good forum to discuss them. However, our PTCs meet monthly usually in the evening and this isn’t the best time for all families.

There are more traditional partnerships that are effective also. Parent-teacher conferences allow teachers and families the opportunity to openly discuss their student’s progress. However, parents shouldn’t feel that conferences are the only time to talk to teachers. If you missed conferences, call your school and set up a time to talk to your child’s teacher. This can be done any time during the school year, and not just during the prescribed conference period.

There are other ways parents can partner with schools that don’t include joining a committee. Things that seem simple like setting up a routine for homework or reading at home are effective ways to partner with the schools. If you have time during the day, coming to school and reading to your child’s class is highly effective and meaningful. Contact your school or child’s teacher to set that up. Many parents choose to attend field trips with their child. This is a fun way to get to know teachers in a different environment. For the elementary schools, checking your child’s book bag or backpack every day is a huge help to the teacher and school. This is our primary way to communicate with you and pass on information about your child. If you have Internet at home, sending your child’s teacher an email once a week can also be effective. This works well for teachers because they can check email and respond when they have time. Signing up for the Parent Portal allows you to check grades and student work on your computer.

As a parent of two students in the Austin Public Schools, I do understand how busy we get. I also understand that sometimes parents feel like they aren’t invited to participate. Consider this your official invitation. We look forward to hearing from you.