Pancakes provide proactive plan for parent participation

MCHS faculty solicits open communication


Parents of high school students who are looking for avenues of communication with school teachers and administrators are invited to meet over coffee and pancakes on the way to work.

Moffat County High School will host Pancakes for Parents from 7 a.m. to 8 a.m. Oct. 24 in the Moffat County High School lunchroom.

The breakfast, a way to encourage interaction between parents and MCHS staff, aims to provide an open forum for parents and guardians to mingle with teachers and administrators in a proactive effort to improve communication.

Faced with the challenge of addressing climate survey scores that indicate communication from the schools is in need of improvement, high school officials are being forced to get creative with how they solicit feedback.

"My idea is simply to reach more parents so that they have avenues to communicate with us," high school principal Jane Krogman said. "Hopefully those who can't make it to the PACs (Parent Accredibility Committee meetings), can make it to a breakfast. This is an open forum with no agenda. Simply a time for us to listen."

But improving survey scores is only part of the agenda for the breakfast and other communication strategies.

"Successful students are generally supported by involved parents," Krogman said.

As part of the effort to improve relationships with students and parents, MCHS teachers set a goal that each teacher would call one parent per week to initiate positive contact and to talk about the individual student and his or her recent successes, Krogman said.

As a result, parents might expect a phone call to let them know that their students has shown improvement, has exhibited exceptional leadership skills, is a team player or other positive feedback about their students' progress.

But the buck doesn't stop there. Parents should be accountable for the success of their students, too.

"While it is certainly our counselor's and advisor's jobs to guide your student in the decision-making process, you know your child best and what their aptitudes, abilities and goals are," Krogman said. "We really want to be your partner in educating your child."

Krogman advises that, at the minimum, parents should know and understand their students' course schedules and to be involved in what classes they select.

"A high school student's schedule should be geared toward future goals and should be tailored to meet the needs of college, workforce or trade school demands," she said.

Parents who show interest are often the impetus for children who take an interest in their own education.

"The more you are involved, the more you send the message that education is important," high school parent Donna Stover said. "Education is the key to a child's future and you need to show an interest in it just like you would in your husband's business or anything else."

Stover believes that there is much more to be gained from being involved than simply sending a message to the student.

"When we go to a parent advisory, we get a wealth of information about what the school is doing, what its strengths and weaknesses are and how they are addressing those things. It's so informative that I can't believe more people aren't involved," she said.

Being involved on some level is good for the betterment of the total organization for all students.

"Just because your child is a good student, doesn't mean that you can't contribute to the overall climate of the school," Krogman said. "These meetings are for recommending ways to improve as well as giving commendations and celebrating the things that we are doing right."

It's hard to be involved when your child is a teenager but indirect involvement with a student is equally important, Stover said.

"You reach a point where you no longer help them with their homework or drop them off at school, but your involvement might help another student or parent and it also says to your child, 'I love you. I care about you. Your education is important to me,'" she said. "Believe me, they notice it."

Stover also recognizes involvement as a way to affect inevitable change.

"The educational system isn't static, it's dynamic, so things aren't always the same. You may be happy today, but you should be concerned about the future," she said. "You want to be there for the change, and make sure it goes in the right direction."

Getting parents involved has always been a challenge for school administrators. In 2002, MCHS sent approximately 400 surveys to households of high school students and 19 were returned. In 2003, parents who attended parent-teacher conferences were asked to complete the same survey, which generated 157 responses, about half of the roughly 400 surveys they would have liked to collect, said Krogman.

"We have about 12 parents and community members who regularly attend our Parent Advisory Committee meetings each month," said Krogman.

PAC, which is open not only to parents, but to all concerned citizens, meets at 6 p.m. on the first Monday of each month in the high school library. The committee serves as an advisory to the principal, a sounding board for new ideas, materials, concepts and concerns, reviews high school policies and philosophies and reviews and revises goal statements as they pertain to the quality of education at MCHS. But the lack of attendance may be the reason that so many parents are unaware of what is happening at the school.

The committee addresses such issues as how to get parents more involved, reviews issues such as standardized testing scores, budgets and makes recommendations on capital improvements for the building and grounds. But the meetings also are forums for open discussion and a time for voices to be heard and the committee to listen.

But Krogman said the bottom line is involved parents know their child's schedule, know the curriculum that the child is participating in, has a general understanding of school policies and procedures, know where to go for help for their child, know the student's teachers and feel comfortable contacting those teachers whenever necessary.

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