School, Family and Community Involvement, Supports Excellent Schools and Successful Students
Kevin E. Harrigan, Superintendent of Schools
What has been your experience with your family’s connection to school? Hopefully, it’s been positive. Or perhaps, it was less than positive for one reason or another. Whether you grew up hoping someday to become like your third grade teacher, or you dreaded being sent to the principal’s office, I am certain you want what’s best for your child in school. It is exceedingly rare to find parents who are not concerned about their child’s success in school.
In over 30 years of teaching and administering in school systems, I’ve learned that everyone wants excellent schools. Everyone wants healthy and successful students. Students need multiple sources of support to succeed in school and in life. How do we bring this about?
Educators can’t do this work alone. In fact, there’s a theoretical construct that suggests that the best results come when the experience, philosophy and practice of three respected institutions overlap: the family, the community, and the school. Where they intersect, you find the bonding together of people in special ways based on shared values; children thrive. Leave out any one of them, and the results are less than favorable.
A growing body of evidence points to positive benefits from family and community connections with schools. This research consistently emphasizes that effective efforts don’t just happen by chance. To support classroom instruction, effective family and community involvement efforts should be carefully designed. The efforts need to be linked with student achievement goals and school standards, must engage families in activities that focus directly on issues related to student learning, use a variety of communication strategies to keep family members informed on what is happening in the classroom and what is needed to support student learning, and help build a school culture that is inclusive and supportive of family and community involvement
Ideally, all families are involved. We try to reach out in a variety of ways so that everyone has the opportunity to be involved. But parents do vary in how much they presently are involved, and in how much they can or want to be involved. And, even in the best systems, there are some teachers and administrators who might resist any increased involvement with the families of their students. Happily, I’ve seen little evidence of that here in OGUSD! I continuously witness the generosity of involvement and volunteerism.
Here in the Oak Grove Union School District, we’ve continued successful practices, and launched new initiatives, to involve families and the larger community in ways that directly assist students’ learning and success. They take on many forms, but all can be categorized into one of the following six types:
- PARENTING: The family, of course, is responsible for basic housing, health, nutrition, clothing and safety. But the school has a role to play in helping families in understanding child and adolescent development, and in how to set home conditions that support children as students at each age and grade level.
- COMMUNICATING: We strive to be effective in communicating from school to home, with notices, report cards, conferences, newsletters, computerized telephone calls, personal phone calls, emails and websites. We hope we are helping you understand the school’s programs and your child’s progress, understand state tests and other assessments that measure your child’s progress, and aid in choosing your child’s school, placements, courses of study, programs and activities.
It is vital for everyone to understand that this is a two-way street. We also count on your willingness to reach out with questions, suggestions, and meaningful interaction, drawing our attention to situations that might otherwise escape our notice.
- VOLUNTEERING: We work to improve recruitment, training, scheduling, and service of family members as volunteers, improving the volunteer experience, as aides, tutors, coaches, boosters, monitors, chaperones, mentors, or in other ways.
We also appreciate your participation as audiences at school or classroom events, such as assemblies, performances, sports, recognition ceremonies, celebrations and other activities to support students and school programs.
- LEARNING AT HOME: We look for ways to involve families with their children in learning activities at home, including homework, other curriculum-related activities, and individual course and program decisions. Your family can be the critical, determining factor in how well your student’s skills and talents are developed.
- DECISION MAKING: We include families as participants in school decisions, governance such as Site Council, and advocacy through parent groups, event planning committees, and in other ways.
- COLLABORATING WITH COMMUNITY: We endeavor to coordinate resources and services for students, families, and the school with businesses, agencies, and other groups, and provide services to the community.
This issue of the Messenger describes some of the many ways in which these types of involvement are already being instilled into the experiences of our students in the classroom and within our learning community.
Your support, teamwork and collaboration are deeply appreciated. Recognizing that each person can contribute to a varying extent based on time, commitments, and other resources, please know that we value your involvement at whatever level is possible for you.
I am honored to serve as your superintendent!
Kevin E. Harrigan