Parent Networking: Ways Schools Provide for Parents to Participate, Connect and Communicate
Welcome by Kate Morin, Head of Upper School at Stone Ridge
Welcome and Calendar Review – Betsy Mandel, President, PCW
Presentations and discussion of the ways that schools provide for parents to participate in their school communities and to connect and communicate with each other.
NOTE: Please send an email request to ParentsCouncil@verizon.net for copies of parent networking practices from these PCW member schools: Fourth Presbyterian, Gonzaga, Holton-Arms, National Cathedral, Potomac, Sidwell, St. Andrews, St. Stephen St. Agnes and Washington International School.
Presentation: Cathy Horvath – National Cathedral School – Parent Peer Groups
NCS has a committee called “school life” to enhance the life of students, parents and faculty. Leaders are selected from a list of volunteers from the parent community or recommendations made by outgoing Peer Group leaders. There are two Parent Peer Leaders in each grade who organize grade level Parent Peer Meetings, who serve on the “school life” committee. There are two or three meetings per grade per year. Topics include developmental and social issues. These meetings are meant to be a resource for parents and help to build community with the NCS parents. Sometimes the Parent Peer Meeting agenda compliments current curriculum or a larger school program.
These meetings have one of the following:
- Outside speaker or a specialist from within the school faculty.
- Group discussion with the parents on a specific topic which is facilitated by the Peer Group leader.
- Program to compliment what is going on at the school.
There is always someone from the school faculty/staff attending these meetings. NCS believes it shows “good faith” and that these meetings are a constructive venue.
Timely Topics: Parent education speakers and events sponsored by the parent organization, Barnesville Parent Connection, (BPC) Example: Computer/Internet Safety in the Age of Facebook, Twitter, etc.
FREE for Barnesville Parents and Open to the Public
Cost = $400.00 for 1 ½ – 2 hour presentation
Attendance = 20-30
Looking Ahead: Parents of Middle School (5th – 8th grades) are invited to learn about opportunities and the processes involved in looking at schools for students beyond 8th grade.
Open Board Meetings: Held Bi-Annually. Opportunity for all parents to learn about the Board of Trustees of the school – who they are, what their responsibilities are, what they are and are/not involved in, etc…
Welcome Coffees: Grab & Gab or Grab & Go – beginning of school year.
New Family Liaison: Connects current families with new incoming families based on grade, gender and residential location. Idea is to facilitate a smooth transition for new family and provide a connection throughout the year. Generates “What to Expect” information sheets for new families.
Parent Socials: Held in the beginning of the year (prior to mid-November). Potluck cocktail/appetizer, dinner, dessert, wine-tasting or combination thereof.
Organized by a volunteer host family per grade and usually held in their home prior to Thanksgiving.
This year only 1 social was held for Middle School parents to foster closer communication and school spirit – approximately 35 attended. Very well received.
Back to School: Usually held on a Sunday afternoon in September
All families invited at minimal cost – $5.00 per adult.
No charge for children and faculty & staff
Board of Trustees volunteer to grill burgers/dogs.
Fun events for kids – face-painting, tie dying, hay rides, moon bounces, dunk tank, educational farm animal presentation & more
Cost = $3,000.00
Various Newsletters: A weekly electronic newsletter, BITS, with updates from the BPC, faculty, staff and the Head of School.
“What to Expect” information sheets for New Families
Room Parent Emails – notify parents of upcoming class parties, field trips, projects, teacher related communications, Mom’s Night Out, etc…
School Website – Grade specific newsletters are often generated by teachers on this website in addition to student schedules, the school calendar, the hot lunch schedule, etc.
Fourth Presbyterian School
Contact: Barbara Murray (email@example.com/301-320-4854)
Title: Collaborative Strategic Planning for Parents
Logistics: Grade Level Parents/Room moms host parent coffees for their grades in their homes. Coffees can be held during the morning hours and/or at night (for working parents) in locations central to the school. Coffees should last no more than an hour and a half.
Program Description: The three questions recommended to use to generate discussion are below:
1. What do you value most at our school?
2. What topics and issues deserve attention at our school?
3. What are the broad, external trends and issues that may have an impact on the future of the school?Ground rules—no one is allowed to mention names of staff or teachers. Headmaster/School administrator should be there to facilitate questions and write answers on a flip chart.Effectiveness of Program: This is a great program, as it allows issues and concerns to be presented in a healthy, open manner, thus diffusing gossip (which does not and cannot bring about healthy change) in a school community. School administrators can also use the information gathered at these coffees for the end of the year school-wide polling of parents (done on the Internet with software such as “Survey Monkey”). For the polling, parents are asked to select their top three choices from the data compiled for each of these three questions (What do you value most, topics and issues deserving attention, trends and issues that may have an impact). The information can then be used by the school administration to address changes the following year, and/or affirm core programs and selling points to the school community to reinforce school pride.
Gonzaga College High School
19 Eye Street, NW
Washington, DC 20001
Mothers Club President – Nancy Leach HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
Fathers Club President – John Treseler HYPERLINK “mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org” email@example.com
Gonzaga is an all male four year college preparatory high school, in the Jesuit tradition. We have a Mothers Club (GMC) and a Fathers Club (GFC), and both hold open meetings that include information dissemination, event and committee reports, speakers and opportunities for networking. Each organization includes a Moderator who is a member of the Gonzaga faculty or, in the case of the Mothers Club, the President of the school. While parents are encouraged to purchase a membership, it is not required to participate in meetings or activities.
The Gonzaga Mothers Club (GMC) meets on the second Wednesday of each month in the school cafeteria at 7:00 pm from September through April. Each meeting is open to all mothers or female guardians of Gonzaga students, regardless of whether they have a paid membership in the GMC. The meeting is preceded by a half hour of fellowship that includes light snacks and drinks, provided by the GMC Hospitality Chairs. Meetings, which are run by the President of the Mothers Club, include a speaker on a current topic; reports on upcoming events and opportunities to get involved. The event is planned by the Mothers Club President and the Executive Board of the GMC. The monthly meeting is attended by approximately 100 moms and lasts about an hour and a half.
The Gonzaga Fathers Club (GFC) holds membership meetings every other month in the lower commons of the school that are attended by over 100 Dads. Meetings, presided over by the President of the Fathers Club, include “beer and brats” or “steak and ale” and are used to make announcements and to plan upcoming events that are sponsored by the Gonzaga Dads (Father-Son Service Projects, Welcome Picnic, Open House, Gonzaga/Visitation Picnic, Freshman Retreat, Mother-Son Mass and Brunch, Graduation, to name a few). Fathers Club meetings are open to all Dads and male guardians regardless of whether they join the GFC.
Together, the GMC and GFC hold two joint meetings – in the fall and in the spring. Each meeting includes a relevant speaker and a reception. These events, when well publicized, are well attended and provide parents an opportunity to socialize and network.
In addition to general meetings, the GMC and the GFC each have numerous committees that carry out the planned activities of each organization. These committees provide the parents who participate opportunities to become more familiar with the school as well as with other parents.
Holton-Arms School (HAS) is an all-girls school for grades 3-12. We are organized into three divisions: Lower School (LS) – grades 3-6; Middle School (MS) – grades 7-8 and Upper School (US) – grades 9-12.
The Parent Association (PA) officers include one LS, MS and US Division Rep who work closely with the Parent Association and the grade reps (each grade has 2-3 parent reps). Grade reps communicate news to their families via email and grade-specific bulletin boards on the website.
Parent networking occurs in a variety of informal and formal ways whenever parents come together be it at a grade-level event, a fine or performing arts event, an athletic event, or a school-wide program.
Grade Level Gatherings are organized as needed by the grade reps. There are usually a minimum of two coffees and one social gathering.
Coffees are held in the morning at the school and can either be an informal gathering for parents to chat about issues of concern. Or, the coffee may feature a speaker, typically someone from the school who addresses issues pertinent to the grade. Examples of speakers are the school nurse, the school counselor, the division head, or the class dean (in the case of the US). The grade reps facilitate these gatherings and coffee and bagels are provided. Attendance may vary based on the size of the class and the topic being addressed. Typically, though, these coffees are very well attended.
Parent socials are also held on campus and can either be dinners, wine and cheese gatherings, or some other event. Occasionally, these social events may be held before a more formal program, but the purpose of the event is to provide an opportunity for parents to get to know one another and socialize. Cost varies depending upon the type of event being sponsored. Attendance is usually better for those events that are held in conjunction with some other event (e.g., dinner followed by presentation about college planning), though typically at least 50% of the class parents attend.
Parents may also come together for curriculum-based events that require parent support and participation (these events usually occur in the LS and include Colonial Day, New York trip, and Greek Day). The number of parent volunteers needed is usually determined by the specific tasks that must be accomplished. The grader reps recruit the necessary volunteers. No cost is involved and the grade reps work with the classroom teachers to organize the parents.
All of the grade-level events are very effective at bringing people together and providing an opportunity to network, to talk about common concerns, to learn new information, or to interact with fellow parents and school leaders.
Division Level Gatherings are organized by the grade reps, the division rep, or a PA committee chair. Division level gatherings can be social, programmatic, or educational.
One opportunity parents have to share concerns and ask questions about the school are provided by the Head of the School. The Head of the School hosts a “Let’s Talk with the Head,” six times a year (three in the fall, one LS, one MS, one US, and three in the spring) in her office. Parents may drop in and ask questions or share concerns. Attendance at these “Let’s Talk” events is quite small, but the Head is quite responsive to the dialogue and suggestions that occur in these gatherings.
One of the most popular division level gatherings is the Lower School Literature Fair. This event is held off-campus at a local bookstore. It brings together numerous LS parents, both as volunteers for the event as well as attendees at the event.
Some of the more popular division level events are Father/Daughter events. In the LS, typical events are a ski trip (off-campus), a swim night (on-campus), and a field day (on-campus). In the MS, the fathers make breakfast for the girls after the MS Lock-In. In the US, there is a father/daughter senior dinner. All of these events are very well attended by fathers, or by some other person close to the girls.
There may also be gatherings around topics of interest that feature either a faculty member or an outside speaker. These would be organized by either the division rep or by a committee chair and would be held on campus. Cost can be a factor if an outside speaker is featured. Refreshments would be kept to a minimum, however. We have found that attendees are content if there is coffee, tea and water and a few munchies.
School Wide Events are organized by the PA or the school. School-wide programs are usually more social in nature and provide an opportunity for parents to come together around a fun activity.
The Holton Mosaic is the signature PA event that celebrates the diversity of the Holton community. Numerous parents volunteer to present food, customs, and information about different countries. It is held on campus. Families attend the event and enjoy sampling the food, seeing friends, and watching performances. It is very well attended.
Autumnfest is another PA signature gathering that brings the entire Holton community (students, parents, and faculty/staff) together. The event focuses on “fun building,” no fund raising, and features food, games, and entertainment.
The Mentoring Program is sponsored by the Admissions Office and supported by the PA to welcome new families to the school. Incoming families are paired with current families who help welcome and orient them into the Holton community.
Holton will host speakers on topics of interest to the whole school community. Attendance at these events varies depending upon the topic being addressed. Typically at these events, no refreshments are served.
While Holton does not have a formal structure for holding parent forums, the PA tries to provide a number of opportunities for parents to come together around issues of concern as well as for fun and relaxation. The PA has found this mix of opportunities to be effective in building a community that feels connected to each other as a grade and as a whole.
NATIONAL CATHEDRAL SCHOOL
Ana Small and Beth Tomasello, PCW Reps.
At NCS, networking among parents is facilitated by the Parents Association on a grade-wide level and a school-wide level. The school administration also provides means of parent networking on a school-wide or division-wide level.
PA Grade Reps organize informal grade-level events for parents to get together.
- Pot-luck dinners (held off-site)
- Brown bag lunches (held on-site)
- Parent cocktail parties (usually held off-site with parents providing food and drinks or a few families sponsoring the event)
- Grade Welcoming Committee chairs recruit and assign “buddy” families for new families and organize welcoming events such as pool parties or ice-cream socials for girls and parents during the summer (off-site; parent funded).
PA has “School Life” Chair who coordinates Parent Peer Group chairs for each grade. Peer Group chairs organize grade-level Parent Peer Group meetings for parents to discuss topics of concern:
- Representative topics: “Facebook: Keeping your Daughter Safe,” “Talking to your Daughter about Sex and Pregnancy Prevention,” “Balancing School Work and Competitive Sports”
- Parents may suggest topics for discussion; however Peer Group meetings are not forums for parent complaints
- Meetings held on campus 2-3 times per year
- School provides light refreshments.
PA Grade level communications chair (usually PA Grade Representative) sends grade-wide e-mails to parents for PA or school-related announcements to get parents to come to networking events.
- Monthly grade-wide e-mail listing of upcoming events or meetings
- Grade-wide e-mails drafted by a parent announcing PA-sponsored events such as Peer group meetings, parent activities or student activities, Peer Group meetings, Community Service opportunities, International or Sports Committee events
- E-vites for cocktail parties or other grade-wide social events
PA Grade Reps are responsible for getting information to parents, reaching out to get class parents involved and recruiting volunteers—particularly those who have not been involved in the past—for PA-sponsored activities.
School or Division-Wide Networking
Parent Networking Sponsored by the School Administration:
- The NCS Administration sponsors several school-wide events that are designed as opportunities for parent information and networking:
- Two lectures with outside speakers (one on an international topic) held in the evening at school and preceded by half an hour for refreshments and conversation among parents and faculty/administration.
- “State of the School” address by Head of School. Formal remarks by Head of School followed by Q&A. Preceded by half hour for coffee and mingling. Held at school immediately after morning drop-off.
- “Breakfast with the Governing Board” meeting between parents and governing board to discuss school policy questions, and in particular, tuition for following school year. Preceded by half hour for coffee and mingling. Held immediately after drop off.
Several networking events are also organized by Division:
- Coffees with Head of School, sponsored by PA. Done on divisional or other multiple grade level. Remarks by Head of School, introduction of PA officers and initiatives, Q&A. Preceded by half hour for coffee and mingling. Held immediately after drop-off.
- Divisional “Back to School” Nights. 2-3 hours in the Fall. Parents hear remarks by Division Head and visit daughter’s classrooms. Preceded by informal time for refreshment and conversation.
- Coffees with Division Head. Held at 8 am for one hour. Remarks by Division Head and Q&A.
- NCS Communications Director is responsible for the NCS web page and for all school-wide electronic communications. The NCS Web page has links to a Media Gallery, Academics, Sports, Upcoming events, Admissions, Calendar, and Student Life to keep parents informed of school-sponsored events.
- NCS Division Heads e-mail weekly Divisional Bulletins to parents to keep parents informed of networking opportunities. The Newsletters contain:
- Letter from the division head with general updates in their division
- “The Week Ahead” (with events scheduled for the next week)
- “From the School” listing upcoming events such as International week, Athletic recruiting, Junior college night, Health and wellness forum
- “From the Parents Association” which includes items such as, requests for Chaperones, Pot luck dinners, Father/daughter bowling, Faculty Appreciation Breakfast, Spring Benefit, Book sales, Sally Foster, Mother/Daughter Book club
School-Wide Parent Networking Sponsored by the Parents Association:
- Two PA representatives and several administration and faculty members plan “Diversity Reading Groups” to read a pre-selected book and discuss diversity issues in the book and how they relate to school life.
- Meetings are for parents only
- Are held on-site
- Refreshments provided by the school
PA International Committee sponsors a school-wide International Potluck Dinner for all parents. Held in the evening at the school.
The PA Welcoming Committee sponsors a Welcome Dinner in September for all new and some returning parents to provide a forum for new parents to learn about the school in a social setting. Held on campus; funded by PA.
The NCS PA does not have a school-wide newsletter. All communications for these activities are through the NCS website or school-wide or grade-wide e-mails.
The Potomac School
Parent Forums for K-12
Parent Forum Co-Chairs:
Kim Weinberg 703-928-7979
Lisa Roeder (703) 242-7826
- 2 Forums per grade per year: late fall and spring
- (previously only 1 forum per year for grades K-3; 2009-10 is first year for 2 forums for Lower School. Feedback has been overwhelmingly in favor of this addition). Grade 12 has only one forum in the late fall.
- Meetings traditionally held off-site at a local church that is often used for Potomac meetings. 2009-10 – the Upper School is now on-campus. Mixed reviews- need to ensure privacy and that this is not school- administered (it is run by parents).
- Meetings for K-6 alternate Fall 7:30-9:30p.m. and Spring 8:30-10:30 a.m. to allow for more child care issues. Grades 7-12 are all in the evening. All sessions begin with 15 minute social and start promptly at quarter of the hour.
- Lower School average 20-30 parents
- Middle School and Intermediate school varies per grade/issues/dynamics – 20-40 parents
- Upper School has highest attendance 30-50+ parents
Cost: minimal. Only water and snacks (pretzels) provided. Used to provide more, but did not seem necessary.
The Parent Forum is an opportunity for grade-specific parents to come together to discuss issues, concerns, topics, and questions that are relevant and age-appropriate for this population. Primarily this is a social interaction that equips parents with tools and ideas to better nurture their child(ren)’s growth and development. While this is intended to support adults in parenting their children, forums are not tasked with finding and implementing solutions. Certainly parents may want to take action based on their findings, yet it is not the responsibility of the forum to solve problems.
Topics can be communicated before the forum meeting if parents choose to contact their facilitators ahead of time. Otherwise, topics are typically generated at the beginning of the meeting via brainstorm discussion or more discreetly with index cards.
Typical topics are:
Lower School: allowances, bedtimes, television and videogames, computer and Internet use, making new friends as the class expands, sleepovers, eating habits, play dates, etc.
Middle School: school transitions, after school and weekend activities, bedtimes, home alone, peer pressure, curfews, hygiene, television and videogames, Internet use, cell phones, time management, sleepovers, study habits, etc.
Intermediate School: school transitions, boy/girl social activities, home alone, peer pressure, curfews, hygiene, television and videogames, Internet use, cell phones, time management, sleepovers, weekends, etc.
Upper School: dating, drinking, driving, drugs, curfews, stress management, relationships, dancing styles, Internet use, social bullying, cell phones/texting, etc.
The Facilitators are trained and have a handbook for preparing and running effective forum meetings. They are to stress the importance of the ground rules at the beginning of each meeting, which helps to ensure compliance to the forum guidelines in keeping conversations development-focused and away from academic or school-related issues. The Facilitators and the Forum Co-Chairs take an active role in promoting attendance by emails, parent rep communication, ‘bring-a-friend’ efforts, and personal outreach. Because of the success of this program, attendance has been increasing steadily.
Effectiveness of Program:
Many new enhancements have been made to the forum process. This has helped increase the success of the program as well as increase attendance. Key initiatives have been:
- Invitations sent out by Evite to all parents of that grade
- Room Parent Reps stressing importance of attendance
- Buddy system (bring-a-friend) efforts
- Word-of-mouth from past success
- Administration support
- Facilitator Training Program and Facilitator Handbook
- Two facilitators per grade- a parent of a boy and parent of a girl (from different home rooms for grades K-6).
- Facilitator evaluation feedback immediately following forum meeting
Sidwell Friends School
Submitted to the Parents Council of Washington, January 2010 by:
Susan Liu, PCW Rep (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Libby Graves, PCW Rep (email@example.com)
Amy Davies, PA Co-President (firstname.lastname@example.org)
Sidwell Friends offers many opportunities for Parent Networking by promoting parent involvement. Parents are encouraged to volunteer for the Parents Association and for the Office of Institutional Advancement. Over 200 volunteers assume leadership positions on the SFS PA roster each year. Other opportunities for parent networking are available by attending meetings and events; new parents are especially encouraged to participate. SFS does not charge admission for activities (except for Prom and Fundraising Events for Student Scholarships). Instead, families pay a per student PA fee with their tuition payment. All events take place on-site except for “friendly dozen” potlucks in the fall, off-site community service programs, and occasional gatherings. PA meetings, events and activities are open to all parents. Length of meetings is generally 60 – 90 minutes.
Events for Parents / Parent Networking Opportunities:
- Spring Festival for all Lower School families, including newly admitted families, May (organized by PA)
- Ice Cream Social for new Middle School families, June (organized by PA)
- Welcome Breakfast or Welcome Tea for all 9th grade parents and new Upper School parents, August (organized by School)
- Welcome gatherings for all new parents, by division: LS, MS, US, September (organized by PA)
- Orientation coffees for Lower and Middle School parents, by division (organized by PA)
- Back-to-School family picnics for grades PK-8 and parent receptions for grades 9-12, September (organized by grade reps)
- “Friendly Dozen” Parent Potlucks for grades PK-12: groups of 12 parents with children in the same grade gather for a shared meal in private homes in the fall (organized by grade reps and room parents)
- PA All School and division meetings are preceded with time for socializing and light refreshments or coffee, usually 30 minutes. Parents are invited to contribute food potluck-style for specified PA meetings and events. (organized by PA)
- PA Standing Committee meetings and gatherings (Arts, Athletics, Community Health, Community Service, Diversity, Parents of Black Students, Parents of Latino Students, Quaker Life), frequency of meetings varies by committee, mornings and evenings (organized by PA)
- LS parents meetings with Principal, twice per year, grades PK – 2 and grades 3 – 4, mornings (organized by School and PA)
- MS parents meeting with Principal, Counselor, and PA Community Health Initiative, by grade, evenings (organized by School and PA)
- MS parents meetings with Principal/Counselor, twice per year, grades 5 – 8, by grade, mornings (organized by School)
- US 9th grade parents “Introduction to US Life” meetings with administrators, monthly, mornings (organized by School)
- US parents meetings with Principal and Administrators, three times per year, grades 10 – 12 (organized by School)
- US 12th grade parents meetings with college counselors, mornings and evenings (organized by School)
- Parent peer group meetings for grades PK – 12, by grade, two times per year, evenings (organized by PA Community Health Initiative)
- Quaker Meeting For Worship; parents are invited weekly at LS and three times per year at MS and US
- Community Service draws parents together in classrooms, at parent chaperoned service learning programs, at service partner organizations, at grade-wide pie and casserole bakes, at Quaker work camps (e.g. home repair in underserved communities), etc.
- LS family events: Book Fair, Swim Party, Spring Festival (organized by PA)
- Curriculum-related events for families, PK-6, mornings and evenings (organized by School)
- End-of-year 12th grade events for families: community service day, senior class Meeting for Worship, celebration events for seniors and their parents (organized by PA)
- MS and US arts and athletics events
- Homecoming for entire School community, October weekend (organized by School and PA)
- “ArtRageous” arts festival for entire School community, January weekend (organized by PA)
- Guest lecture programs: Chinese Studies program, Arts program, etc. (organized by School)
- Guest speakers for parents, evenings (organized by PA and School)
- Fundraising Events for Student Scholarships: Next-to-New Sale, Book Club, Variety Show, Tennis Round Robin, Golf Tournament, Auction (organized by SFS office of institutional advancement with parent support)
St. Andrew’s Episcopal School
Kristen Saada – Parent to Parent Chairperson
Purpose of the Parent to Parent (P2P) Committee
- To coordinate and supervise events that will build connections among parents within and across grades and campuses through coffees, speakers and other activities.
- To promote wellness among parents.
- To provide outreach to new families.
- To provide support to all school events that include parents by working to increase participation though phone calls and marketing.
Chairperson puts together a committee of parents (at least one rep per grade) interested in planning and promoting parent events.
At the start of the year each P2P representative receives a list of new parents in the grade. Each representative calls all new families to welcome them to St. Andrew’s and tells them about any upcoming events, explains the morning exercise classes offered to parents, volunteer opportunities and offers to answer any questions about the school.
Each grade has a beginning of the year potluck dinner organized by room parents. The P2P representative then organizes at least one parent event per trimester for each grade and/or school (lower school, intermediate & middle school and upper school). Events include coffee at school after drop off, luncheons at parent home, wine and cheese evening at parents home, drop in event at school gate house for parents during school dances, teens and technology speaker for middle school parents.
Most events with the intent of parents socializing usually take place at a parent home with the exception of the lower school coffee and the evening get together while kids are at a school dance. Speaker events take place at school.
Very important to find a class P2P rep that is in touch with the needs of the grade so that the appropriate gathering or speaker can be planned. Some grades may have more working parents then others so evening events will be more effective.
Challenges have been making sure each grade has a representative since each grade also needs two room parents that coordinate some grade activities and are in charge of communicating important info to parents.
P2P is also planning to use St. A’s Facebook page and Twitter to promote wellness to parents and to assist in communicating events.
St Stephens & St Agnes School (SSSAS)
Carol Pratt – email@example.com – 703 915-9468
SSSAS consists of three Divisions. The Lower School (LS) is Junior Kindergarten through 5th grade; Middle School (MS) is 6th through 8th grades; Upper School (US) is 9th through 12th grades. Each Division is located on a separate and distinct campus within Alexandria. Overall there are nearly 1200 students from just over 750 families.
Our Parent Networking “program” is not a formal program, per se. However, an emphasis on providing opportunities for parents to interact at both the “division” level as well as the “all school” level to foster a school-wide sense of community. Our Fall and Spring Festivals, as well as the annual Gala/Auction sponsored by the APT are amongst the most well-attended of the all-school events.
During the past three years our school has shifted away from “paper” communications as much as possible. Parent representatives use intranet capabilities to send messages to specific committees or grade levels as much as possible. Volunteers are solicited via this means as well. Recognizing that some parents do not monitor e-mail daily, however, striking the right balance between paper and electronic communication is still a challenge.
Lower School specific:
- Room parents in grades JK-5 act as the primary source of communication for parents in class, plan class parties, coordinate classroom volunteers, coordinate chaperones for field trips, etc.
- Popsicles in the Park – get-together for incoming JK/Kindergartners and their parents during the first week of school.
- Parent Parties/Potluck Dinners – at least one grade level get-together at a parent’s home, organized by a committee and usually scheduled in the fall at the start of the new school year.
- Informal grade-level get-togethers (held throughout the school year) such as book clubs, walking groups, lunches, coffees, etc.
- Parent Networking Programs – informative programs for parents planned throughout the school year… “What’s New at the Lower School?”, “Raising Saints Who Love To Serve,” Managing Stress During The Holidays”
- All LS parents are invited to attend Chapel on Tuesday mornings.
- Parent coffees hosted by the LS Director/Head of School throughout the year.
Middle School specific:
- No “room parents” for each class, but rather have committee chairs that organize events for either a specific grade or for the whole MS. For communicating to MS parents, one “Community Group Owner” is established for each of the three grades. The Community Group Owner uses the intranet to issue reminders of events in the weekly “Dispatch” newsletter such as sandwich-making or to issue invitations for grade-wide events.
- Parent Parties/Potluck Dinners – at least one grade level get-together at a parent’s home, organized by a committee and usually scheduled in the fall at the start of the new school year.
- Informal grade-level get-togethers (held throughout the school year) such as book clubs, walking groups, lunches, coffees, etc. Goal is one event/month, but generally occur 6-8 weeks apart.
- APT volunteer opportunities such as chaperoning a dance, teacher appreciation days, multicultural/diversity events, community service, etc.
Upper School specific:
- Very similar to MS approach, but no parents chaperone school dances (chaperones are school staff at the US.
- Networking can be more challenging due to students focus on more sports and homework. Much of the networking is sport-centered.
- APT-sponsored social events such as Fall Festival during Homecoming, Spring Festival, Sleepy Thompson weekend-long tournament, spring “Gala/Auction”, Christmas decorating of the school, “Sign-On parties” offered for sale at Gala for parents to get together.
- Service-oriented – both APT and school sponsored with and without children
- Sandwich making, homeless shelter organizing
- APT Committees
- Multicultural/Diversity – potluck dinners, book discussions, Chinese New Year celebrations
- Sustainability – Events beginning to take more root amongst parents
- School-sponsored events such as Christmas concerts, other performing arts concerts, drama performances, sports events, etc.
Washington International School – IB Program School
Best practices meeting at Stoneridge School – Wednesday January 27th, 2010
WISPA (WIS parent association) president: Cecile Wilde – 703 790 8090
At WIS we have several ways to communicate information and connect with our parents families.
All the activities below are parent volunteers. Those volunteers are set in May of the previous year.
• WISPA meeting: once a month 8:30 a.m. (1 hour)/ open to all / takes place on the Upper school campus (rooms are booked in May of the previous year). Food and drinks brought by WISPA president. President purchased this year a coffee machine with pods to facilitate all below mentioned meetings.
Attended by president, 3 representatives for each school. Treasurer, secretary and Vice president (WISPA Board) – but a lot of parents attend. Grade coordinators and school coordinators also attend. Head of the whole school and guest speakers also attend.
President meets with head of school ahead of time
President organizes an agenda for the meeting with topics of discussions and invited guests from school faculty and staff. Discussions also take place about incoming events at the school and the events logistics. Discussions related to WISPA budget, issues that have come up, volunteer’s recruitment for events.
Parents also can contact the president of the PA with wider issues, which are discussed with the Head at the meetings.
Minutes of these meetings are sent to the Coordinators of our 3 campuses: Primary, Middle and Upper who in turn sends it to the parents, and reinforces the information through the class parents meetings (see below) –
If school wide information needs to be sent, the President will take upon her/himself to do so, either through email blasts or through and with the help of the office of communication at school and also through electronic newspaper @WIS
WISPA will set up a group of parents for various committees to take charge of various events/or set up meeting with Peer group coordinators to reinforce the best practices.
WISPA will also help the school identify parents to be part of committees to recruit new heads, change policies in the school, calendar etc…
• Class parents meetings: Organized by the school coordinators (parents in charge of Upper, Middle and primary school) They prepare their agenda. All parents are invited
Upper and Middle school: Upper school campus – 8:30 a.m. (1 hour) room booked in May of the previous year. Well attended (20 to 30 parents)
Primary school meetings: Primary school campus – 12:15 p.m. (room booked ahead of time in May of the previous year)
Meetings are once a month – one for Upper School, one for Middle school and one for Primary school. Those meeting concentrate on the activities/issues/relevant information for that particular school – Head of that school is invited. The Information is distributed through the coordinators (each grade has a coordinator) and through the class parents to the community at large. The representatives from the WISPA board are present. It is for all parents – well attended (20 to 30 parents)
Each school and/or grade coordinators has the task to reinforce important dates for events or other dates and important information through emails and have the tasks to inform WISPA president of any grade level issues or other problems which need the attention of the Heads of Schools.
All the minutes of the meetings are sent through emails, and are posted on a Web page called Moodle. Accessible to all WIS families with a password. Each school, primary, middle and upper has a Moodle representative, a parent in charge of putting all the minutes in the website.
All the above meetings have coffee and pastries provided by the coordinators.
This year the WISPA president has purchased an automated Coffee maker with coffee pods to facilitate the coordinators in their morning meetings. Costs of pastries are a donation from the Parents volunteering as President, coordinators.
For each volunteering activity taking place at WIS, the President of WISPA will write her thank you through an electronic information page, called @WIS, which is sent by the school, by the communication office, twice a month. To ensure that the WIS community at large is aware of what the parents are doing.
WISPA also works closely with the school and organizes program presentations of the IB curriculum for the parents and for each grade at different times during the year. WISPA sponsored.
•• Peer Group meetings: Upper and Middle school
Each grade as one or two representatives for Peer group meetings. The meetings are organized by the representatives who work closely with grades coordinators to pass on information, set up dates, organized food donations and
Organized at someone’s home as a potluck: parents bring food and drinks
WISPA organizes a guest speaker – The guest speaker is paid by the parent’s associations. – food and drink is brought by parents. Often Peer group meetings with guest speakers takes place at school.
The topics of discussion are chosen ahead of time – it is never about school issues.
The representatives are the moderators of the meeting and keep the conversation on the chosen topics and make sure that the conversation stays away from gossip.
Peer group meetings: Primary school
There is one parent in charge of Peer group coordination at the primary school, and they organize potluck dinners with topic of discussion but also
Saturday in the Park – to give an opportunity to have children play together while the parents get to know each other
At the Beginning of the school year WISPA has a training session for the Peer group coordinators. Very Effective.
PLUS On that basis to know each other better, we also have social events with no topics of discussions but to get to know each other, and organized by grade at a parent’s home. The parents of the grade do donations of food, drinks and home.
••• Coffee mornings: organized by the Grade coordinators. To meet new parents and get new and past parents together – once a month or every couple of months. The set up of these depends on the availability of the grade coordinator.
Parents’ volunteers do donation of food. Takes place at school, in the parent’s room, coffee available through WISPA
•••• Social events:
Welcome Back Picnic: early September, it is organized by the WISPA president and WISPA board. Paid by the Parent Association for the 3 schools – Food cooked by the Grill Team, drinks provided by WISPA, amusements, games etc.. provided by WISPA – school wide event
International Dinner: In November :organized by a parent volunteer who gets her/his committee together in September. International foods brought by parents. Wine, drinks etc. paid by Parents Association – school wide event
Gala / Auction (March): organized by a parent volunteer who gets a committee together in September. Budget provided by Advancement office – school wide event
Bazaar: Mid to end of April – fund raising activity to help with a trip the 10th graders take in April or May
2 parent volunteers are on the committee and organize the event. Many parents participate but it is mandatory for 10th grade parents and students. Crepes stand, British tea (buffet), international foods, games, vendors etc. WISPA and advancement office sponsored. Parent’s contribution of food for food stands.