The fourth and final goal area in our strategic plan is student success through family and community engagement. The three performance objectives under this goal address the importance of partnership with families and community as well as developing an active key communicators network.
The importance of working in partnership with families and the community can’t be overstated. According to a recent policy brief from the National Education Association, “when schools, parents, families and communities work together to support learning, students tend to earn higher grades, attend school more regularly, stay in school longer and enroll in higher level programs.”
Under the performance objective to develop and nurture family support, we have an initiative to enhance our opportunities for parents to learn how to support their child academically. Our district is fortunate to employ eight family engagement coordinators who focus on bridging the gap between school and home. They offer a range of parent education classes that provide ways for parents to help their children academically. In an effort to enhance our parent education opportunities, we are evaluating classes currently being offered for parents throughout the district.
Currently, we are surveying parents regarding their perception of parent engagement in our schools. We have received more than 1,400 responses to the survey thus far. We want to know what parents think about opportunities to get involved in their child’s school now and what schools can do to improve the relationship between school and home. We encourage every parent to take the survey once for each child they have in the district and let us know what they think we can do to improve our parent involvement and parent education programs.
We also are surveying staff to determine where gaps exist between the classroom and home. We’ve asked them to tell us what other type of parent education classes and support our district can offer for parents. We want to empower parents to help their child with homework and support their child’s educational endeavors. When the survey results are in, our communications department will use the data to build a brand for our parent education program and determine new ways to help parents support their students.
Another initiative is to grow the Little Cats program. It’s never too early to engage families in their child’s education. A major component of the unique Little Cats program, which serves 4-year-old students in Dalton who don’t get into pre-kindergarten, is parent involvement at the once-a-week meetings. The class is taught by family engagement coordinators who work with students to develop their social-emotional and academic skills in preparation for kindergarten. Parents attend the classes with their children and learn how to work with their child to improve academic knowledge and understand development growth.
This year, the district was able to add a Little Cats class at the newly renovated Roan Roundhouse, bringing our total to three classes with a capacity to serve 70 children. These are students who are not being served in regular prekindergarten classes. We hope to continue to expand our Little Cats program as funds and space become available. Research shows that children from economically disadvantaged families who participate in early learning opportunities are better prepared socially and academically when entering kindergarten. An important component of Little Cats is building the connection between parents and school. We hope that by engaging families early in the process, we can keep those parents involved and supportive throughout their child’s 13 years in our school district.
Under the performance objective to enhance and sustain robust communications and community partnerships, the district is gathering data regarding the number of partnerships that currently exist at schools so we can begin recruiting additional partners to fill needs. Our schools are blessed to have some deep relationships with local businesses and faith-based organizations who go above and beyond an ordinary partnership to fill the needs of not only students, but their families as well. We are grateful for all the support given to our schools and students and encourage anyone interested in helping at a school to reach out to one of our school principals.
As author Jamie Vollmer’s book title reads, “Schools Cannot Do It Alone.” Public schools are an important part of our community and we work hard to provide the very best education to every child in Dalton. I encourage you to join us as a volunteer or a partner as we endeavor to provide world-class learning that prepares students to take on the world.
Tim Scott is superintendent of Dalton Public Schools.