I couldn’t believe that Eddie wanted to run against me for Site Council at Samantha’s elementary school, Peachland. I called the school to ask if having two parents from the same family were allowed, being that we may have too big a “vote” on school budgetary decisions. No, not a problem, in fact they just wished that they had more parents to fulfill the requirements.
We’re new parents. In fact our only kid is just starting the first grade. We both feel pretty out of the loop in understanding how schools run. We are dumbfounded by track schedules, lunch menus, library policies, homework requirements, teacher’s needs, etc. And because of that we both felt that we could learn more by participating in the school’s Site Council. Granted not all parents that both work, like we do, can make the time to volunteer. But for only two hours, one day per month, we were willing to give it a shot.
Our first hurdle was in being elected. But Peachland had three parent positions available and, SURPRISE, only three parents were willing to do this particular task. Fear of rejection was replaced with the fear of what did all of these other more experienced parents know about being on the Site Council that we didn’t?
Our first meeting was today. Very professional with minutes, introductions, asking for any Public Input, Election of Officers and then a lengthy review of the by-laws, School-Wide Updates and the all-important School Improvement Program (SIP) Overview. That’s what we were going to be in charge of, the “SIP”.
We missed a few people at the meeting so I believe that was how I got the coveted “secretary” spot. Our principal, Brian Skinner, was well aware of my weekly Signal column and welcomed the information, albeit from my cursed point of view, brought to the public in any way possible. Our Chairperson elected was the jubilant and seasoned parent of two, Sue Cahill and Vice Chairperson was incoming parent member, Katherine Tollefson, daughter of a soon-to-be second grader. We found that we were short one parent-alternate, but no one had any suggestions.
Then our attention was back to the meeting and now my pen was scribbling faster than I could control. Mr. Skinner began the lengthy explanation of how a little less than one hundred dollars per student is allocated from the State each year for the SIP. The Sip budget allows slight expenditures, less than 5% of the total allocation, to employ substitute teachers so that our teachers may attend conferences and/or to observe other teachers, employee disability and unemployment and for instructional supplies. The other expenses, that comprised the majority of the budget, goes toward four Instructional Assistants, Classroom Specialists, two Reading Specialists, one P.E. Specialist and one Computer Specialist.
Our new Chairperson, Sue Cahill, questioned the number of Instructional Assistants. Mr. Skinner explained that this was due to loosing the district’s print shop and now all “paperwork” had to done on school premises. Sue wondered if we could ask parents for help. Again Mr. Skinner’s smile grew broad at the thought of relieving some of the pressure and having more parents help out. He said that after all of the kinks were worked out with the new systems we could then enlist our PTA to gain more parent help. I asked if any parents owned a print shop and he said yes, but their kids have graduated.
Mr. Skinner never grew more animated than when he spoke of his different “Specialists”. A computer Specialist that is implementing a program for grade level competency. A P.E. Specialist that teaches skills leading up to sports. She is motivated enough to introduce hurdles, dance and even Martial Arts. The two Reading Specialists join the other five we have from other funding. That equals fifty minutes in each class every day.
A program titled Intervention Services has at least nine teachers volunteering an extra 45 minutes a day (starting their school day now at 7:30 in the morning). This program has seen a great deal of growth in the high-risk students that attended last year.
And we were going to be able to tour the school to see how it all comes together and works! I couldn’t ask for more involvement with my kid’s school. My only embarrassment was that I didn’t want to volunteer to be the secretary and have to take all of those notes and present them at every meeting. But it makes me think that if I can do this what can you do?
So now we had three volunteers and still needed a forth, just as an alternate. The looks between the parents, teachers and administrators all had the same unspoken truth: Would someone else step forward to fill the position out of the 500 families that are enrolled at Peachland? Did one of our 500 families own a thriving printing business? Did other schools have similar problems?
One of the last pieces on the agenda was a review of our School Effectiveness Survey. Out of Peachland’s 500 families 125 were randomly selected. I remember that survey and, vaguely, some of its 46 questions. It was difficult to analyze the results for the simple reason that only about 23 returned the form. That is such a small number that we all agreed to look for a way of promoting the survey for a better result the next time.
This is my only way.
I’m for promoting my kid. And I’m willing to promote yours, while I’m there too. But what about the other families? Become a Site Council Alternate! Join the PTA! Volunteer at school. Not only this school, but at any school. It is very easy to complain and very hard to make time to help. But we all must. We must beg, borrow or steal a print shop! Assist in the classroom. Read to your kids. Become involved. Because everything we do goes to all of these kids. And lastly I hope that I effectively met Article II: Purpose “Be actively involved in the communication between school and parents, spreading enthusiasm for upholding our standards for quality and excellence.” So I’m thinking, stay with me here, maybe Eddie should type up the minutes, he volunteered too!