The Roundtable was a fluid and candid discussion amongst ourselves as parents as well as school representatives about issues and topics that follow. These are topics that School Reps have requested for discussion.
- Multi-Cultural Events
- Increasing Volunteerism
- Holiday Gifts for Teachers and Administrators
- Proms and After-Prom Parties
- Middle-School Topics
MULTICULTURAL EVENTS/PROGRAMS: Describe What Schools are doing
National Presbyterian School – The school hosts several Multicultural Dinners with the parents and students, “family night”. This event is open to everyone in the school. They are catered dinners where they have had up to 300 attendees. These events are funded by the school and promoted by the Head of School.
Holton Arms – The Mosaic Program. This is a very well attended event on a weeknight in January from 5:30 – 9 pm with food, culture and costumes from many countries. Parents get together in groups to participate and families donate all the food. This event is sponsored and paid for by the PA and is a good example of “community building.” There is a “Showcase” with productions of dance, costumes, and music. The school has flags from all of the countries on display in the dining room.
Landon – Taste of Landon- This event is held in the dining room on a weeknight. There are tables from many cultures and countries. It is a potluck format and very well attended. Kids love it. The best marketing tool for this event is to attend it and it speaks for itself.
Stone Ridge – Multicultural Festival – held on a Saturday in January or February from 11 am – 4 pm. It is held in the gyms. One gym has tables to hold food from other countries/cultures; one holds performances by the students that include singing, dance, and cooking demonstrations.
Norwood – They have either a day event or an evening event. Last year there were 20 countries represented. They ask themselves if their PA is representative of their parent body.
Maret – PA has a diversity committee and has a presence at every event held at the school.
Bullis – Global Village- this is an evening event held annually. Includes food, dance, traditional dress, music from various countries and cultures.
Washington Episcopal School/WES – They work different cultures into lessons. Have a “Tour de France” for lower school with croissants and discuss French culture. Middle School selects countries from an area like South America and plans a themed breakfast for their peers. WES also has a big “international potluck night” where people bring in dishes representative of their countries or cultures.
Many agree that multiculturalism is something that also needs to be woven into the curriculum of the schools. It would be beneficial to “tap” into teachers to participate and work things into their lessons, not just the foreign language teachers, but history, social studies, etc.
It was suggested that parents go into their children’s classrooms and share their countries/culture/family traditions as this best captures the students’ interest.
There has been a decline in the number of volunteers. Try to have “in school” opportunities to see the kids in class environment. Lots of moms going back to work and are looking for other ways to volunteer – weekend events, evening events, one time slots i.e. stuffing envelopes, decorating the “day of.” Keep it simple.
Some schools are focusing on “participation” to make volunteering easier. It is easier for the parents to come in for an hour or two rather than chairing a large event like an auction.
Volunteers who feel overwhelmed need to reach out to other parents/friends at the school. Sometimes all it takes is a phone call or email asking for help and people are usually very willing.
It is recommended to have a Chair and Co-Chair on every event so no one is doing it all alone. This also is a form of succession planning so the Co-Chair can learn the position and then take over the 2nd year. It is also recommended that schools do some evening meetings so working parents can attend easier.
Schools should maintain a list of short-term volunteer opportunities as some parents can’t commit too far in advance, but can help out at the last minute..
Schools should look at offering free babysitting during meetings or events so parents with small children are able to attend.
Directly calling new families and asking them to help with specific jobs is a great way to get new volunteers but also to make new families feel welcome and give them an opportunity to meet other parents.
HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING
Some schools anonymously collect donations to be pooled together then divided to purchase gift cards or write checks to the faculty and staff. Students are encouraged to bring in home made gifts and cards.
One school has an “End of the Year” gift that is given to all faculty and staff and the money comes out of the PA budget. In the past they have purchased fleece jackets with the school logos and thermal lunch boxes so it is equal for everyone.
Another school purchases a loaf of bread from a local bakery that is holiday wrapped and given to faculty and staff. This money comes from the PA budget.
DIVISION SPECIFIC BREAK OUT SESSIONS
Upper School Breakout Session
After Prom Parties
One school provided mandatory bus transportation to the prom and to the after prom party and back to school’s parking lot. Anyone who wanted to attend the prom and the after prom had to take the bus. The kids brought a change of clothes for the after prom party. They had parents manning the parking lot to make sure that all kids were picked up. The bus ran from the after prom party to the parking lot every 15 minutes or so. Once kids left the after prom party they were not permitted to come back. Since this school has instituted this policy there have been no alcohol-related driving issues at the school associated with prom and after prom. This school said that they had a very high percentage of kids who attended the prom attending the after prom party due to this system.
One school had an issue with kids sneaking alcohol on the bus. They handled it by instituting a rule that anyone who brings alcohol on the bus is not permitted to go to the prom or the after prom party. Many schools encouraged all kids to come to the prom and after prom with their friends instead of coming with dates.
A number of schools said that they encouraged students to stay at the after prom party by holding a raffle every 30 minutes or so with very desirable prizes and making a rule that you must be present to win the prizes. Many schools obtain these prizes through parent donations either of items or of money. Most schools seem to use freshman and/or sophomore parents to act as chaperones since the proms are for juniors and seniors and kids do not want their parents chaperoning the dances. Many schools make the rule that once you leave the after prom party you cannot come back.
On the issue of cost, schools said that they raise money all year for the after prom party. Parents donate most items in the raffle. One school said that they always use the same theme for the after prom party as they use for the auction so that they can re-use decorations. Another school said that they eliminated the after prom party at the school because it was simply too expensive. Their parents were not supportive of a mandatory bus system nor a system where the kids are told they could not come back if they left the after prom party.
On the issue of parents hosting parties where alcohol was permitted, one PCW rep said that their school has a rule that if a parent hosts such a party and the police come or violence results, the child of those parents is automatically suspended for some period of time and colleges are notified of that suspension.
A number of schools hold mandatory alcohol programs for students and one of their parents just prior to homecoming or their big school dance. They invite representatives of the police department of the county in which the school is located to speak to everyone about these penalties.
One school has a program, beginning in 10th grade, and another, which begins in 8th grade, where all students and one of their parents must attend which involves a series of events. There generally is a speaker who speaks about alcohol abuse. This can include a nurse in an emergency room who tells the kids about horror stories that she has observed. Then the parents and the kids are placed around tables and each parent is at a different table than their child. They engage in a series of dialogues at each table about different scenarios including things like: a child is at a party and is not drinking and is asked to bring 3 drunk friends home; a child arrives at a party and alcohol is present and doesn’t know what to do. Parents like this program because it combines factual information from a speaker with dialogue with kids.
One school sends out a letter to parents every summer asking them to sign a pledge not to serve alcohol in their homes to minors and to confiscate such alcohol if a child brings it into their home. They then place an asterisk in the school directory next to the name of every parent who agreed to this pledge.
The discussion then turned to strategies to use to raise kids who don’t drink. One person said that the number one reason that kids don’t drink is that they don’t want to disappoint their parents. One of the parents said that they have managed to raise kids who don’t drink by not drinking in front of their kids and by never communicating the message that “I assume you will drink” but rather by communicating the message that “we don’t drink.” The importance of having a peer group of kids who also don’t drink was also stressed. Lastly, parents said that they give their child an exit strategy by agreeing on code words for their child to use if they want to get out of a situation in which drinking is occurring and letting them know they will pick them up anytime with no questions asked.
MIDDLE SCHOOL BREAKOUT SESSION
A number of topics and questions were raised.
- Socially, what is going on? Are Middle School kids “dating” or “going out”?
- Middle schoolers are using Facebook more, and there is a lot of texting going on.
- Bullying – seems to be worse with all this technology. What are the schools doing to discipline what happens on line?
When is it the Parents job and when the Schools?
Some responses include:
- Parents need to parent, not rely on schools to parent too. For example, Parents need to walk kids to the door at parties. They need to call ahead to the houses where the kids are going. Many schools say students need to abide by their Code of Conduct 24/7 – in and out of school.
- Parents at smaller schools feel that many of these issues are easier to manage in a smaller environment where all the parents know each other and talk often.
- Many schools have Parent Peer Group meetings. They feel these are very effective and informative. These are all held at school and are for discussion of social-type issues not school/academic/faculty issues. Parents are able to discuss whether or not “everyone is doing it”. This helps to “build community” at the school as parents coming together to share mutual concerns/issues involving their children. Some schools have an anonymous report back to their division heads on any issues that may need action.
- Some schools are teaching “Conflict Resolution” in the Lower Schools. They feel this is a great start on teaching kids how to resolve things, respect others, and treat others as you would like to be treated.
LOWER SCHOOL BREAKOUT SESSION
Emailing, texting, and cell phone use has greatly increased at the lower school level. Many schools have guidelines and do not allow cell phones for lower school kids. There is a huge range on the usage from kid to kid. It is up to the parents to instill their own rules at home. Starting these rules is easier in lower school before it is a bigger issue.
Homework varies greatly by school, by teacher, and by grade. It would be more appropriate to have the same grade within a school have roughly the same amount of homework.