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How To Build Your School's Community: Part Two
Parent Committee Purpose and Design
Once you have a strong parental involvement in your parent partnership you can begin to recruit volunteers to create and head committees of value to the school. The administration should have a general idea of what school programs are needed to provide children with enriching activities and can guide parents with suggestions. In the center mentioned in Part One (see link below), our second meeting's purpose was to brainstorm committee ideas with parents and develop groups of interest with strong leadership. From this meeting the following committees were created:
- Event Planning
- Classroom Parent Support
The Administrative Committee worked with the center director in writing the monthly newsletter, collecting a database of parent's with special talents and abilities to offer the school, and to assist in tasks such as stuffing envelopes and posting flyers.
The Event Planning Committee made a list of major events to celebrate and assigned parents to head each event. They were responsible for advertising, soliciting volunteers, providing refreshments, decorating, photography, and clean-up. In other words, they ran the whole event. This was a tremendous time-saver for the administration and the parents proved to be very successful from launch to finish.
The Classroom Parent Support committee assisted the teachers in planning holiday and special event parties in the room. They also volunteered in the classroom as storytellers, craft instructors and creating monthly or thematic bulletin board displays.
Since the center was associated with a water conservation company, the parents formed an Environmental Committee to help children learn all about our water resources and how it affected life in South Florida. The plans were to build a canal on the playground that would allow children to observe how locks work in the distribution of water to people in need. They also planned to use rain barrels to catch rainfall off the roof to water plants in the butterfly garden.
Once the core committees were formed, parents joined their group of interest to assign a leader, create goals and plan committee events. It is important that you share with parents their responsibilities and the policy of the company regarding volunteers. Some parent partnerships have a vote in school policy, if this is not a right you need to clearly state this to ensure there isn't any misinterpretation.
Using a Survey to Build a Parent Database
One of the most important tools used in forming a parent partnership pool of volunteers is a survey that will build your database of volunteers. The survey asks questions such as availability, preferred meeting times, if they have any special talents/abilities to offer and which committee they would be most interested in supporting. The survey results are used to create a parent database accessible to the committee leadership and administration and can be pulled to create communication to parents about the school program needs, used as a call list, and to request volunteer services as needed. If you do not have access to a database software application a simple excel spreadsheet would work just as well. Below is a sample question useful in setting meeting days and times which is important to establish due to parent time constraints. Other questions to include are contact information such as parent address and telephone.
Sample Survey Question
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A Parent Partnership will only add value to your school and enhance the learning environment for all children. Furthermore, as the committees engage in activities they will build a solid support system and become a collective voice in the community. The cost is minimal to the school and it is priceless in the long run. I have seen parents so involved in the partnership that they almost become a staff member or teacher assistant and this is what you want to see in a successfully run program. The series only taps the potential of establishing a school community and I am sure there are many other avenues that would bridge the gap between school and parent. Please feel free to suggest a few in your comments to this hub.