At Lynch Elementary School in Redmond, Oregon, the school leadership team consists of classroom teachers from each grade level, a counselor, one Special Education teacher, a Language Development Coach, Title Reading and Math teachers … and three parents.
“Having these parents as part of our team has made a huge difference in our school,” Principal Rayna Nordstrom said. “Having a parent perspective on our team allows us to get out of our educational world and jargon and focus on the practical. They have helped us to understand confusions that parents may have about our systems and protocols.”
Lynch’s school leadership team made a general call for parent volunteers through the school newsletter, and also asked classroom teachers to share the names of parent volunteers that might want to participate on the team. Nordstrom personally called and invited the parents to be a part of the school leadership team. To be on the team, parents agreed to attend a meeting once a month, give input from themselves and other parents, and participate in Lynch’s Parent Universities (evening events where the school provides dinner, shares opportunities with parents, and educates them on various resources).
Nordstrom hopes parents who join will stay on the team until their children graduate from Lynch. Two of the parents will be moving on when their children enter middle school in the fall, so one of Lynch’s key jobs this Spring is to find replacements for them.
One challenge that arose during the recruiting process was deciding how many parents to invite and which information they needed parent opinion or thoughts on. The team originally planned on having two parents on the team. The school leadership team invited three families in case one wasn’t able to participate, but all three jumped at the opportunity. Instead of uninviting one, the team decided to keep them all.
Lynch is currently gathering parent input on the school’s new mission and vision. During parent-teacher conferences, parents went to the lobby to vote for their preferred statements to guide the new mission and vision. The school administration also surveyed parents on their preference of the next Parent University Night, which will be held this Spring. Participation in these lobby surveys was well-received. A “Dot Chart” showed how other parents voted and made it easy for everyone to see the consensus.
Thanks to the feedback from parent surveys and parents on the leadership team, Lynch hosted Parent Nights for the school’s families. Spanish Math Night had 80 family members in attendance. The night’s events were conducted in Spanish, and families learned to play math games. Another evening was a Behavior Support Night. The district behavior specialist and district technology specialist addressed the entire group, sharing tips and ideas on bullying and cyberbullying, and the importance of a school/parent partnership in shaping positive behavior. Parents rotated through several stations: Mosaic Medical and Deschutes County Behavioral Health therapist (community partners), School Tools (the strategies, tools and protocols used at school were shared and families took some of the tools home), and Technology Specialist (handout on positive online behavior tips). Two parents from the leadership team also hosted a Parents Helping Parents station where they shared with other parents how they personally handle behavior situations with their children.
Inviting parents to join the school leadership team is all part of Lynch’s commitment to family engagement. Each grade level is implementing at least two family engagement opportunities, and activities often center around times when parents are already at the school. For example, each month Lynch hosts an awards assembly tied to a specific character trait. Grade levels take turns presenting something specific at the assembly and they invite famiiles to watch. Several grade level teams then invite parents to stay in the classroom to participate in an activity. Activities ranged from playing math games to creating Valentines.
“We have only just begun getting parents more involved in our school,” Nordstrom said. “We have goals to strengthen our PTO, increase the number of parents volunteering in classrooms, and adding more community partners.”
Lucy supports SWIFT Center’s Communications Team as a Communications Specialist, which is just a fancy way of saying she edits, writes, and otherwise owns whatever lands on her desk that day. Lucy has been hard of hearing since age 4, and is passionate about accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities, especially those who are deaf or hard of hearing.