4j District Wide Parent Leaders Meeting
6:30-8:15PM December 1, 2015
North Eugene High School Library
Meeting opened with introductions around the room

Brief comment from Sabrina Gordon, 4j teacher and parent re: the Better Oregon Campaign, a proposed ballot initiative for the November 2016 election that would raise taxes on large corporations to provide additional funds for state education, senior services, and health care.

Parent & Community Engagement:

Heather Sielicki summarized the results of the recent community engagement survey:

Popularity of communication methods used by 4j schools: e-mail:  94% ; Facebook: 82%; e-Newsletter: 64%–of these 22% are sent via 4j staff/admin email; monthly meetings: 58%; paper/backpack fliers: 20%;  Twitter: 10%

Successful communication with school community is primarily used to organize and inform parents of fundraising activities, school sponsored educational events, and other school-wide happenings.

Methods that are desired additions to the above include school directories, text messages, communication efforts led by the school staff as opposed to parent volunteers, use of online sign up systems like Volunteer Spot or Sign-up Genius.

Obstacles to community engagement identified by survey participants include low numbers of volunteers relative to the amount of work done or needed, need for childcare, busy schedules, poor communication/lack of effective communication tools, and a generally diminishing sense of “civic responsibility”.

Engagement partnerships, i.e. off-campus help with volunteer tasks, included assistance from (older) students/nearby schools, neighborhood associations, community non-profits, and churches.

4j schools represented in the survey have a wide range of success with community engagement and lots of variation in how parent or volunteer centered groups are formed and operated.

-A note on school directory solutions:  Edison funds printing (and a surplus) by selling ad space in the directory.  Parents need to opt in to having their information listed—a good time and place for this is during Fall parent teacher conferences, although this is fairly specific to elementary school level programs.

Feed Hope:

Aaron Box, 4j parent and local pastor, described his award-winning program for fighting hunger in the Bertha Holt school community.  Food for Lane County is not designed to meet needs of the high numbers of students in the FRL program, for whom food insecurity can be so extreme that their school meals may often be their only meals. Feed Hope taps into the church community and neighborhood association to provide nutritious and easy to prepare meals for weekends and during winter and spring break periods.  In addition to fulfilling an urgent need for many children and families, the effort has contributed massively to community building within the Holt neighborhood and drawing volunteers from the community who now (after standard background checks) volunteer at the school for other tasks.

Other area schools participate in similar efforts on a somewhat smaller scale, e.g. the Holiday Food Drive currently underway at Camas Ridge and the food pantry available at Edgewood.

The logistics of the Feed Hope project are well-organized and would be easily transferable to other school communities who want to develop a similar assistance program powered by community engagement.

Word from Gustavo Balderas:

Superintendent Gustavo Balderas addressed the group on the topic of community engagement:

-The district is encouraging school leaders to recognize that parents want to be engaged, and that a request for involvement that comes from an administrator often carries more weight than one that comes from a parent or parent group.

-Ideas to engage the school community include after hours curriculum based events, e.g. Science/Math/Reading night, or other parent education topics.

-Schools need to cultivate a partnership with parents and stakeholders for raising and supporting kids, given time spent in vs. out of school. Efforts should be made to sustain these invested relationships throughout all K-12 grades.

Breakout Session:

Participants broke into groups based on school level represented (elementary, middle, high) and discussed successes, problems, and desires regarding school community engagement.  The most successful model is a parent group that can engage the widest possible segment of the school community through effective organization, use of multimedia in communicating needs, as well as event timing, and an established sense of community and school identity.  There is a great deal of variation between distric schools at all three levels in terms of both the existence of such groups and their relative effectiveness.

Follow Up:

Kerry Delf, Associate Director for Communications for Eugene School District 4J sent a follow up link to more information about 4J’s rapid notification system (which schools often refer to as the “autodialer”) and how to opt in to text messages:

Upcoming Meetings:

Next District Wide Parents Meeting Meeting: LGBTQ Student Support

  • When: Tuesday, January 19, 2016, 6:30pm – 8:00pm
  • Where: District Office, 200 North Monroe St.
  • Open to all student families

Next 4j District Wide Parent Leaders Meeting meeting: Risk Management

  • When: Tuesday, February 9th, 2016
  • Where: Churchill High School Library
  • Open to 3 parent representatives per school