Starting a Parent Advisory Council from Scratch
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There is no parent group in your school and you would like to help start one? How to begin?
Of course, there are many benefits:
• parents feel welcome in their child’s school
• parents want their voice – concerns, praise, issues – to be respected and have follow-up
• families empowered through genuine involvement pass that feeling of efficacy on to their children
• and on and on….the research is heavy on benefits, to family, school and community.
Here are some of the negatives of thwarted parent involvement:
• frustrated, disenchanted, unhappy parents
• unmet student needs because advocacy on their behalf is cut-off
• poor school achievement
• and so forth….the research tells many sad tales.
So, how to begin:
1. One person can start the ball rolling….Gather a few parents and feel out the need.
Concerns might be
___ academic achievement ___ parents feel unwelcome
___ bullying situations ___ parents not involved
___ special needs students ___ concerns not dealt with
___ discipline: uneven, unfair, not there ___ reading problems
___ need a school handbook of policies, rules, procedures, philosophy
2. The structure of a parent group can start out with 2 or 3 volunteers. Call yourselves the Steering Committee who agree to do the basics. Keep notes.
3. See the principal. Two (never one) make an appointment to see the principal requesting the means to set up a parent advisory council. Discuss how a school wide news item (best in the school newsletter) will issue the invitation to a meeting to form a PAC.
4. You can use carefully structured questionnaires to gather input and solicit ideas as part of ongoing discussions between schools and parents. (Example: School Checkup, Checklist for Effective Schools, Parent Satisfaction Index. See this website, under Parent Advisory Councils.)
5. Parent Rights in Education is a general guideline for parents about their role, rights, and responsibilities in education. You can modify this 20 year old flyer or pass it out to parents as is. (See this website, under Parent Rights)
6. Structure of more organized parent meetings should occur at the school at a time convenient for most parents and upon sufficient prior notice. A Chair, Vice-chair, and Secretary are the main officers you need. Class representatives are very desirable. (Do’s & Don’ts of a PAC, Levels of Parent Involvement , see this website, under Parent Advisory Councils)
7. Parent Advisory Councils should meet independently as parents, then the principal can have a set time to attend to hear concerns, praise, suggestions, whatever, or provide a report, news, etc.
Remember: In this day of the Internet it is easy to get sidetracked because there are 1,000’s of sites to visit. “Parent involvement” is one of the latest education fads, and whole industries have grown up to feed this move. But, unfortunately, much is superficial and symbolic here, as with other “reforms”. You, as parents, in your school need to keep your two eyes open:
â˜º Integrity – be true to your cause
â˜º Independence – don’t get sidelined into agendas of others.
You are fulfilling the most basic of human instincts: Guiding your children to independence and self fulfillment.