What Parent Leaders Want

At the April 30 Parent Leaders meeting, we completed a Organization Development Needs Assessment survey for our group to determine the type of training and organizational development activities we are most interested in accessing during the 2018-2019 school year.


After evaluating the results, the topics that were of highest interest were

  • School improvement,
  • Facilitation,
  • Energizers, warm-ups and ice breakers,
  • Group agreements and norms, and
  • Communication.

Some of the specific skills we wanted to build included increasing diversity/inclusivity in our parent groups, volunteer recruitment, supporting transitions (betwen elementary/middle/high), 4J policies and procedures, and fundraising.

Moving forward, Heather Sielicki and Rita Gillihan will meet with Brooke Wagner to schedule dates for next year.

Meeting Minutes from 10/25/16

The meet was convened at 6:30 pm and began with introductions. Parent Leaders were in attendance from Buena Vista, Camas Ridge, Edison, Family School, Gilham, Howard, Kelly, McCornack, Monroe, North Eugene,  Sheldon, Willagillespie, and Yujin Gakuen.

District Presentations

We started out with introductions and a presentation from district leadership. Some of the highlights so far this year include:

  • Two new buildings opened; Roosevelt and Howard.
  • Two new buildings are in construction, ATA (Old Jefferson Middle) and the new River Road
  • 2016-2017 scheduled is the 1st full year of school (no furlough days) since 1999
  • 9th and 10th grades are fully scheduled
  • Attendance has increased
  • Class sizes are reduced. Last year at this time, 39 elementary schools had class sizes over 30. This year only 7 elementary schools are struggling
  • Part-time counselors have been added to elementary schools
  • Elementary math curriculum has been adopted; two open houses are planned with self-paced walk thoughs (budget 20-minutes to complete)
  • Formalizing a science curriculum adoption, inquiry based science approach (write and reading)
  • Reinvesting in immersion programs, evaluating frameworks for interventions, looking at curriculmn to help with kids having trouble – focus on equitable outcomes
  • Standardized the district attendance policy
  • Strengthen consent education with a focus on healthy relationships at secondary level, looking at a secular version of the Our Whole Lives program
  • Continuing with Naviance college and career readiness program to support multiple pathways to success
  • Supporting AVID program

Focus on Capacity Building

Educators Josh Reckord and Bill Kenta provided education on how to increase the capacity of PTOs.

Theory Stop: The value of parent involvement

  • Highlighted the importance of supporting student learning at home. Results indicated a statistically significant association between parent involvement and child’s academic performance….
    • Parenting
    • Communicating
    • Volunteering
    • Learning at home
    • Decision-making
    • Community Collaboration
  • Regardless of family background or income, parent involvement is a key indicator for student success
  • Collaborative efforts are the best ways to help people feel connected
  • Need to create enough opportunities for parent participation so that all kids can have this benefit

Group Break Outs and Discussion : How Are Parents Involved Now

  • Regular PTO Meetings
  • Topical meetings and forums
    • Family nights with high school volunteers
    • Bingo/spaghetti night
    • Safety and Disaster Preparedness Training
      • Do parents know what to do if they are in the school if an earthquake strikes? Is there a plan?
  • Coffee social in staff lounge
  • Morning and afternoon person on site connecting with people
  • Electronic outreach
    • Facebook page and group
    • E-mail school updates or newsletter
    • School web site
      • Is it user friendly? Up to date? Are bylaws and site council minutes available?
      • Are the calendars between the PTO and school integrated?
  • Phone trees
  • Classroom support
    • Are liaisions empowered to be problem solvers?
  • School wide volunteer support
    • Parent led classes
  • Community volunteer
    • Volunteer Spot
  • Ongoing surveys
  • Fundraising programs
  • Community events
    • Engineering night
    • Family Movie nights with concession and pizza
    • PE Activity Nights
    • Party on the Playground Food Truck Night
  • Traditions
    • Beginning of year watermelon feed Meet PTO
    • Popsicles on the playground
  • Listening sessions
  • Parent engagement focus group
  • Trainings
    • How to talk to staff about difficult situations

Recommended Support Resources

Online Reading


Meeting Minutes: 12/1/15

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

Meeting Minutes 10/6/15

Meeting Location: South Eugene High School

Participating Schools:
Richard Desmond (Adams), Alexis Borrevik (Adams), Sharon Docherty (Adams), Alex Schumann (Bertha Holt), Mandy Howell (Bertha Holt), Moira Querns (Bertha Holt), Tim Bruegman (Buena Vista), Gail Spinks (Buena Vista), Coleen Hudkins (Buena Vista), Marty Wilde (Camas Ridge), Heather Sielicki (Camas Ridge), Sandra Epple (Camas Ridge), Gina Thompson (Charlemagne), Shannon Tom (Charlemagne), Julie Kim (Charlemagne), Jennifer Phillips (Churchhill), Carrie Copeland (Corridor), Gayle Sawyer (Edgewood), John Stapleton (Edgewood), Mimi Kato (Edison), Kari Parsons (Edison), Tama Tochihara (Edison), Jessica Rasmussen (Family School), Joey Carlson (Family School), Kalleen Stoddard (Gilham), Celeste Marshall (Gilham), Jessica Bott (Howard), Kaylynn Olney (Howard), Sabrina Gordon (Kelly), Jen Phillips (Kennedy), Kurt Winchell (North Eugene), Eileen Nittler (North Eugene), Sabrina Gordon (River Road), Dana Flemning (Roosevelt), Beth Sheehan (South Eugene), Katharine de Baun (South Eugene), Chan Manda (South Eugene), Joy Marshall (South Eugene), Sherrie Bandy (Spencer Butte), Elizabeth Rock (Yujin Gakuen), Rita Gilham (Yujin Gakuen)

Unrepresented Schools:
Arts & Technology Academy, Awbrey Park, Cal Young, Cesar Chavez, Eugene Education Options, Eugene International High School, Madison, McCornack, Spring Creek, Twin Oaks, Willagillespie

Meeting began with remarks by Superintendent Gustavo Balderas, who summarized his background in K-12 administration and direction prior to taking on the 4j leadership position. He has spent the last 3 months meeting with district personnel and parents and conducting district-wide assessments in preparation for initiating the upcoming Community Engagement Plan. This endeavor will kick off in January or February of 2016 and will allow district stakeholders to provide input on the directions that the district will take over the next 3-5 years.

Q & A session with the superintendent:

Q:  Parent asked GB to elaborate on previous comments re: differences between the four district high schools.

A: GB spoke to the different programs and demographics of the district high schools, highlighted that North Eugene is the 1st Oregon HS to integrate their Career Technical Education program with the IB program.

Q:  Re: thoughts on how to equalize SES & low-income issues at different schools

A:  goal is core program that meets needs of every student. w/r/t poverty, the onus falls on the community to bridge the gap, as children are in school for only 6 hours a day. More wrap-around care and extension programs may assist with this for younger grade levels. Increased diversity is matched with increased needs, so solutions need to adjust to the population as it changes.

Q: Please elaborate on community engagement plan

A: Goal is to take community input on 4J facilities, instruction and communications, ask how to improve and set goals over the 3-5 year period.  Tentative goals already described:      to incorporate internal audits of efficiency & efficacy, discussion of adding a language program to CHS and employ some sort of biliteracy certification.

George Russell initiated a previous community engagement plan in 1999, so it has been a while since this sort of organized input was sought. Plan is for the 4J community to engage through surveys, meetings and other outreach efforts.  Parent leaders (this group) will also serve a role in this engagement model.  Overarching goal is to make sure that the district’s goals align with those of the community.

  • Note from Kerry Delf (10/7/15) District community-engaged strategic planning processes in somewhat recent memory have indeed included the Schools of the Future community planning process in 1999–2000, but also more recently the large-scale Shaping 4J’s Future strategic planning process in 2006–2008, and topic-focused planning such as the School Closure & Consolidation Plan in 2001, Strategic Facilities Long-Range Plan in 2002, School Choice Access & Options Plan in 2004; Building 4J’s Future Facilities Long-Range Plan in 2012–13, etc.

Q: Are there any plans to modify the frequency and nature of standardized testing, considering the high rate of opt-out.

A: Important to assess progress with reliable metrics, so some testing is necessary, but some ideas for change may be explored, including substituting SAT or ACT for other assessments at the HS level, finding ways to limit the amount of time spent testing in grades 3-8 while still collecting the mandated benchmark assessments, and making the testing process more relevant and palatable to the community.

  • Note from Kerry Delf (10/7/15) These are possible ideas and areas to explore at a state and federal level. Individual school districts such as 4J do not have decision-making authority over what statewide standardized assessments are required. 

Dr. Balderas plans to attend more parent meetings throughout the year for more Q & A opportunities, and also welcomes email contact at balderas_g@4j.lane.edu.


Organizer Heather Sielicki, Facilitator Josh Reckord, EEF President Kevin Boling

Kevin Boling (the current president of the Eugene Education Foundation Board) spoke about new directions at EEF, introduced new staff members: Rebecca Sprinson is the Executive Director who has expertise in Development and primarily contacts the community at large, seeking donors in the community who are not primary 4J stakeholders.

Dana Fleming provides resources for school fundraising, centralizing and customizing fundraising opportunities for various area schools, working with schools to explain fundraising options and opportunities, facilitating money-handling, etc.

Dual role of EEF is to help raise resources & support for schools (through soliciting and managing contributions from the larger community and beyond) AND helping schools with their own fundraising efforts.

Josh Reckord facilitated two breakout sessions.

Breakout Session I

Four table groups with mixed K-12 parents/staff/guests, tasked with brainstorming about the Parent Leaders group.

Who is this group for?

[collective answers included kids, parents, community, 4J teachers & staff]

What does this group do?

[collaborate, create, crowdsource, share resources and solutions across diverse area schools at all levels, ‘humanize’ the district, provide connectivity by serving as liaison between schools and district]

Why is this special?

[unique opportunities to network and collaborate, to provide/receive ‘on the ground intel’, to build a more cohesive, connected district, to find common ground among the diverse and differently focused 4J schools]

Breakout session II

Four table groups were divided by grade level and school focus. The groups were asked to discuss and record the current state of mind and concerns at their school level. These group responses were posted but not discussed due to time constraints.

Elementary (grades K–5)

elementary2elem2 elem3 elementary

A significant discussion at one of the elementary school tables, which had reps from Camas, Gilham, Charlemagne, Edison, Buena Vista, and I think a few others, was the perception that parent funds are being relied on by the district for funding essential staffing.

Secondary (grades 6–12)secondary

Alternative and Language Immersion


Next Steps

Group members are asked to communicate on next steps, next meeting topics via the Facebook pages, Twitter, or email.

The next three meetings are Dec 1st, Feb 9th, and April 12th. All will take place from 6:30-8.

The Dec 1 meeting will take place at North Eugene HS, pending approval by the facility. Please RSVP at http://www.signupgenius.com/go/409084fa5ab2ba13-district2.

February and April locations to be announced. Contact parentleadersnetwork@gmail.com with any questions or to volunteer your time to help with the next meeting.

Notes Courtesy: Jennifer Phillips

Meeting Minutes 5/13/15

Parent Leader Network Meeting – May 13, 2015

Attending: Dr. Shelley Berman, Kerry, Lisa Kinser-Wehr, Tim Bruegman, Katherine DeBaun, Joy Marshall, Carrie Copeland, Rita Gillihan, Heather Sielicki, Camilla Rice, Kerry Delf, Eliza Drummond


Districtwide parent group for students with special needs. Shelley said that this is a requirement of IDEA and we will check with Dr. Cheryl Linder. Lisa K-W said that she will determine who is leading it.

More ground up discussion and input, less top down discussion.

Allow more than two leaders per school.

Continue reading →

Meeting Minutes 9/29/14

Meeting Questions

  • Parents want to know how we can increase class time/school days and decrease class sizes. why are other districts adding staff, programs and school days but 4J is still struggling?
  • I’d like for parents/PTO leaders to have an opportunity for earlier pro-active input and feedback (vs. reacting to district decisions). Can we give input on school calendar and other decisions that ultimately impact families?
  • Class size, class size, class size. Disparities between schools and grades. Some are large, some are small. No good explanation for parents when upset about his or her child’s class size. (They always seem to have data from other schools.)
  • Good: fundraising success; Bad: class sizes absurd and getting worse despite fundraising. Going to basics; short school year; worried about recruitment and retention of teachers and other valued employees.
  • Questions from parents: how do we avoid replacing so much instructional time on testing and test preparation?; What is the district doing about out-of-control class sizes and the problems they cause, such as teacher recruitment and retention, discipline, and student learning?
  • I hear the question “how does the district make decisions about “x or y or z:” curriculum; days of school; start/stop. How does it all fit together? What are the responsibilities of the board, administrators, teachers, parents, etc?
  • Why do our schools lose 50% of its staff with a directive that all teachers must be certified as bilingual, yet my 5th grader has an English-only teacher? (Mellani Ocampo)
  • In a relatively wealthy and varied state, the constitution of which assures adequate funding for education, how is it that parents have to be constantly pressed for private funding of schools through drives, donations, fundraising events, etc.
  • I would like parent groups to be regularly informed of the concerns and opinions of the teachers themselves.
  • Why won’t 4J let us supplement music or PE anymore when they won’t fund it throughout the year?
  • What is 4J doing to reduce class sizes within current restraints?
  • Why won’t 4J allow differentiated math instruction in 5th grade?
  • Why is lunch time so short? Kids need longer than 15-20 minutes.
  • How come the new grading system isn’t being implemented the same way by all teachers and all schools? It is utter chaos!
  • The most frequently asked questions at PTA meetings revolve around the confusion of who makes final decisions and how they are made, and how money is spent.
  • I would like to know more about how all of 4J’s money is spent.
  • In regard to fundraising, the monies raised by schools outside of EEF direct drive are subject to a surcharge of 10% for what I understand is equity. What does that actually mean and where does the money go?
  • How can our voices be heard? Where can we give input on 4J budget?
  • How can we get more FTE money to decrease class size? Currently we have a class size as high as 37 in elementary school. We would like to see more support for FTE.
  •  Concern about staff morale at SEHS with so many changes.

Frequency of Meetings

Most attendees wanted to have longer meetings 3-4 times a year in the late afternoon to early evening.

Results of Dot Exercise Sorted by Interest

  • Discuss issues and concerns and provide feedback to the district 18
  • Develop a network among schools 15
  • Share the structures of the organizations (finances, responsibilities, PTO, PTA, options, training and support) 13
  • Share ideas for programs and fundraising 8
  • Collaborate on local and state education finding campaigns 8
  • Get together and connect as a region K-12 to support one another as students move on. 8
  • Serve broader base of parents using SurveyMonkey or other mechanisms to get access to more parent ideas and input. Have the ability to bring ideas
  • to the meetings as well as bring back to constituents. 7
  • If we meet, have a specific topic (fundraising, function, etc.) or a specific district focus or initiative to bring feedback 6
  • Create a method for community volunteers (specific talents or targeted expertise) District and schools recruit. 5
  • Want to return in there is a clear action plan and feel like there is an impact or brings change or improvement. 4
  • Hear updates on district level efforts 3
  • Work together on such issues as increasing parent involvement 2
  • Provide parent leadership development opportunities
  • Working together on district-wide projects, i.e. clothing drive idea, group projects that bring collaborative familiarity 2
  • Examine organizational models on how each functions, what are the best options for funding/finances and understand pluses or minuses of each. 1