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Articles: Parents

Wendy Robinson is superintendent of the 31,000-student Fort Wayne Community School District in Indiana.

Public school leaders have grown accustomed to the ground shifting beneath their feet. The one constant we could always rely on was this: Come fall, students would be there, waiting. These days, though, even that’s not a given.

Kate Ford is the area superintendent in Los Angeles for Aspire Public Schools.

Building a strong, empowered community is at the heart of any successful education institution and is transformative in the lives of students, educators and parents.

While teachers and students are key participants in achieving academic success, parents are the glue that holds everything together. Many parents in our communities work multiple jobs, with irregular schedules, making it challenging for even the best-intentioned parents to stay involved with their child’s academics.

Brian Woods, superintendent of Northside ISD in San Antonio, serves on a regional truancy committee. His district hit a record 96 percent attendanc last school year.

District leaders across the country are broadening and personalizing their approaches to attendance because the old way of sending truants and their families to court often fails to bring students back to school.

Lakota Local School District in Ohio recently increased its communications staff to compete with private and parochial schools.

The era of school choice and open enrollment has driven many district leaders to create innovative programs and to more aggressively publicize their offerings to compete with charters and private schools that have drawn away families and funding.

Here, three districts turned the tide on enrollment with enhanced communication, construction and even recruitment initiatives.

Students are safer in schools, like the one above, that have Data Management Inc.’s Visitor Pass Solutions Software. It gathers updated data on all visitors.

School visitors are no longer just writing their names in a notebook when they sign in. Districts are now scanning fingerprints and eyes to check if a visitor or contractor has a criminal record. The new methods not only provide background checks, but can also track how many times someone has visited a school.

Parents from Weigand Avenue Elementary in LAUSD used the trigger law to oust a principal in 2013.  (Photo: Parent Revolution)

Administrators at Los Angeles USD say that a federal waiver bans parents from enacting the state’s controversial “trigger” law in the district this year.

Booster club members attend a session presented by the National Booster Club Training Council.

Sports teams in a growing number of school districts can only return to their fields, gymnasiums, rinks and pools each September with the support of parent-run booster clubs. As budgets tighten, these clubs, which have provided high school athletes with everything from uniforms to scoreboards to travel money for competitions or games, are expanding into elementary and middle schools.

A step for districts going paperless is to stop accepting cash or paper checks from parents. Many school systems have had vendors set up secure online portals where parents can pay for AP courses, lunches and field trips, among other items.

The documentary Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District moves between schools in Pasadena USD in California to give the public a glimpse of an average day for students and teachers.
The film is meant to give the public a glimpse of an average day for students and teachers.
"Go Public" is drawing national attention from communities that want to screen the film.

Go Public: A Day in the Life of an American School District is a recently-released documentary film about Pasadena USD that shows the challenges, triumphs and personalities of a moderate-sized public school system.

Scott Kinney is senior vice president of education partnerships at Discovery Education.

School district leaders must keep a diverse audience of teachers, principals, parents, local community leaders and other stakeholders informed of important district activities and learning initiatives.

Sometimes it can be a challenge for administrators to convey to a broad audience how a school district is transforming teaching and learning with educational technologies and digital content.

Today’s education system is facing a debilitating threat in the form of a “trust deficit” that is undermining school and district leadership. As trust in our education leaders declines, so does student learning due to delayed education reform, decreased student achievement and fractured communities.

The Wake County Public School System opened Rolesville High School last August, a four-story school with 111 teaching spaces to serve 2,262 students at full capacity. It was made possible with a bond issue.

The Puyallup School District in Washington brought a $279 million bond issue before the local community in February, with plans to move 4,000 students out of portable classrooms by constructing and expanding buildings. The measure lost narrowly—55 percent of voters said yes to an issue that needed 60 percent to pass.

Kansas City Public Schools in Missouri lost accreditation in January 2012. As part of the effort to improve schools, district leaders asked MindMixer to create an engagement platform, the KCPS Forum. Parents can access the forum through a web browser or app on their phone and pitch ideas for improving the district.

When districts use WillowTree Apps, which designs engagement platforms, parents only have to use one login and get access to everything—school calendar, attendance, work—in one space.

New platforms are giving parents the chance to track their children’s progress without having to schedule a parent-teacher conference.

Parents of more than three quarters of K12 students think the amount of homework given is appropriate, and many of the adults surveyed also said they help their children with the assignments, says a report on parental involvement from the National Center for Education Statistics.