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Family factors into Douglas education plans

Maggie Allen

With so much emphasis being placed on student competency and teacher accountability, information about how the family is included in the education of students in the Douglas County School District (DCSD) seems important.

– Is the family included in the district’s strategic plan?

Yes, the family strategy was one of the 12 original strategies approved by the Board of Trustees in 1994.

– What is the family strategy?

The primary goal of the family strategy is to “involve all families in the education of their students.” The specific objectives of the strategy are to provide resources that enable families to be involved in students’ education, to welcome families into school settings and to make conferencing with parents available during evening and weekend hours.

In March 2000, the board directed district office staff to form an action team in order to review and revise the family strategy and write action steps to implement the revisions.

– What is this focus group called?

The focus group is called the Family Action Team (FAT).

– How was the Family Action Team formed and how many people are on it?

Roy Casey, assistant superintendent of educational services, asked all school administrators to recommend students, parents, teachers, counselors and administrators to serve on this committee. They began meeting in May 2000 and have 12-15 people on the team.

– What is the make-up of this committee?

Most of the members are parents, and the membership is diverse. Both the Lake and the Valley are represented, as well as elementary, middle and high school levels of schooling.

– What has the committee accomplished so far?

The entire plan has been reviewed and some of the principals have presented what is currently being done at his/her site to promote parent involvement. In addition, the committee has brainstormed other ideas, which may be recommended as part of the revision. They are now ready to draft specific objectives and action steps to present to the Strategic Planning Committee in January 2001.

– What is currently being done at schools to promote parent involvement?

Parent conferences; parent volunteers as classroom aides or tutors; school and classroom newsletters; parents’ groups; monthly parent dialogue groups; family math, reading, and computer nights; parent site accountability committee membership; and parent surveys are some of the parent involvement activities that are currently in place.

– What additional ideas is the committee considering to help increase parental involvement?

Conferences with parents of secondary students, literacy training for parents so they can reinforce student learning at home and training for teachers so they can help increase parent involvement are being discussed. FAT is also considering the endorsement of the positive asset building model, which combines community and schools as they work together to encourage students’ positive actions. A comfortable environment for parents, more parent involvement on the Web site and emphasis on the parent involvement section of the personal education plans designed for identified students are under consideration.

– How will the community know the final outcome of the Family Action Team’s revisions?

The annual strategic plan revision meeting will be held on Jan. 26-27 at the Carson Valley Middle School library. The Family Action Team will present its recommendations, revisions will be made and the Strategic Planning Committee of 19 will vote on the final recommendations. The public is invited to attend this meeting. The Board of Trustees will review the recommendations and if the revisions are approved, the 2001 revision of the strategic plan will be available to the public in the spring. Copies of the revised strategic plan may be obtained at the district office, 751 Mono Ave., Minden, DCSD’s schools, the chamber of commerce and public libraries.

Additional ideas for increasing and supporting parent involvement in the DCSD may be submitted to any school principal.

The time has long passed when school personnel alone can educate our students. The world has become so complex that all of us will need to pull together to be sure our students cross the finish line as winners.

– Maggie Allen is communications coordinator for the Douglas County School District.