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Update: Parent-Led Steering Committee Sets Priorities for Parent Leadership and Engagement

Sep 23, 2016 | Blog, Updates

Committee Completes First Major Objective, Lays Groundwork for Design and Implementation of Programming at Two School Sites

Seattle, Wash. – In partnership with the Somali Parent Education Board (SPEB), a local grassroots organization, WA Charters held a series of parent steering committee convenings over the summer as the first phase of a pilot program that will support parents’ engagement in their children’s public schooling.

In Phase I, the committee, led by charter public school parents and representatives from WA Charters and the SPEB, explored a wide range of issues that are important to parents, then narrowed in on three top priorities to be addressed by the parent leadership and engagement curriculum, which will be implemented at two school Seattle school sites later this fall: Rainier Prep and Summit Sierra.

The three top priorities identified were:

  • Parent-School Communication
  • Navigating School Processes and Systems
  • Understanding Homework and Technology (how to use platforms and support students at home)

With the groundwork now set, WA Charters’ work with the steering committee now shifts to design mode – developing trainings that most effectively meet the identified goals. During this phase, WA Charters will engage the steering committee members as well as school leaders, who will help inform and tailor trainings to address these topics at each school.

“The curriculum will not look the same at each site; rather, it will very intentionally be aligned with each school’s core values and unique model and vary based on parents’ needs,” said Amy Van, WA Charters Manager of Strategic Partnerships. WA Charters will continue to lead with logistics, supporting the committee and leaders to progress smoothly into the design and implementation phases.

Regina Elmi, who serves as the community liaison and SPEB member, says this process helps highlight the assets parents bring to the table. “ It has been an amazing privilege and journey to be part of the beginning of an authentic parent engagement. What I realize is that we can never educate our children if the families and the homes they come from are not aligned with the schools. It is very critical that our schools understand that we work for our families and that these buildings can not operate without the support of the community they serve.”

“It was inspiring  to see Rainier Prep steering committee members at the school’s  family night engage other parents and direct them to stations and workshops. Similarly,  parents from Summit Sierra engaged in training around Summit’s technology platform, Personalized Learning Plan (PLP), and had the opportunity to ask  questions that enable them to support their children at home. These are the reasons why we need to invest more on our parents, our assets.”

Parents on the steering committee have expressed excitement around where the work is headed. Helen Tauanu’u, a parent with two sons at Rainier Prep, Daku and Haru, articulated, “It is a great feeling to know that I get to exercise my voice and to know that what I say may help our schools. Parents are unique in that we have an internal and external perspective of the school, and I believe there is a lot of benefit to be had for our schools to proactively listen.

“I like to hear from those who are traditionally quiet or are unlikely to share aloud in large settings. In this intimate group, I get to hear different feedback and perspectives that I may have never considered. Being a part of this group has motivated me to help parents who have questions about the school or who may want to be more engaged. Ultimately, I would love to see every parent to get involved with their school in some way or another.”

Based on parent and school feedback and the success of the pilot, WA Charters plans to expand the parent leadership program to reach parents at other school sites in the future.