Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Family Engagement for School Committees

It was a privilege to participate in the MASC conference panel session entitled "Moving Beyond the Bake Sale: Strategies for Effective Partnerships for Student Success", with former Lexington SC member and current member of the MA Board of Elementary and Secondary Education Mary Ann Stewart (who organized and facilitated) and Plymouth SC member Kim Hunt. As Mary Ann wrote, "When schools work with and engage families, those families become powerful partners, allies, and advocates of the school and students do better." Our attendees did a fantastic job (in a mini-breakout) sharing some of their district's family engagement challenges along with a wide variety of solutions. Then our panel commented on how school committees can enhance family engagement in the context of three primary roles: budget, policy, and superintendent evaluation.

A few take-aways:
* Plymouth prints and distributes a 5.5" x 7" card detailing their mission and visions statements, core beliefs, and goals from their 2011-2015 strategic plan.
* Refocus site councils to actively assist principals in aligning School Improvement Plans with the district's strategic plan.
* Conduct focused neighborhood meetings to inform the general public on the phasing of new building construction and hear building concerns.
* Use the budget document to inform communities about where money is spent. Use color and visuals (photos as well as charts and graphs) as well as explanatory narrative.
* Use budget monies for teacher professional development around engaging parents and families in enhanced ways.
* Carefully review community engagement policies ("K" policies) from districts' policy manuals, and then compare them to what other districts are doing in that area; that approach can help communities identify areas where they want to be more purposeful.
* Other areas of the policy manual can be explored and enhanced too, like adapting principal hiring policy to encourage the use of search committees that include parents and others.
* Explore the areas of the Superintendent Evaluation Instrument that align with district goals in the area of family and community engagement. Do you want to improve cultural proficiency? Two-way communication? Community and business connections? Make sure superintendent goals are consistent with whatever you choose as a district (understanding that everything can't be done in a year) so all stakeholders are working in parallel.

You can find Mary Ann's excellent facilitator outline, the collaboration sheets from our mini-break-out sessions, and a list of resources using this Google doc: