When it comes to parent involvement, Dodge City public schools have seen their share of improvement, but there’s always room for more, administrators say.
Opportunities for parent involvement exist district-wide, but some schools feel a lack of parents coming in to volunteer services.
At Northwest Elementary School, a large number of parents used to volunteer their time to be crossing guards: a task that now belongs almost exclusively to paid staff members. Services as simple as coming to the classroom to help a child read are also greatly appreciated.
When it comes to parent involvement, Dodge City public schools have seen their share of improvement, but there’s always room for more, administrators say. Opportunities for parent involvement exist district-wide, but some schools feel a lack of parents coming in to volunteer services. At Northwest Elementary School, a large number of parents used to volunteer their time to be crossing guards: a task that now belongs almost exclusively to paid staff members. Services as simple as coming to the classroom to help a child read are also greatly appreciated. “We would love to have parents help with crossing guards,” Northwest Principal Kathy Ramsour said. “Any volunteering they can do before or after school would be greatly appreciated…. In classrooms, we would love to have parents volunteer to listen to kids read.” “I think we’re lacking parents coming in and volunteering actual services,” Dodge City Middle School Principal Mike King said. More formal opportunities for parent involvement exist. Many of the schools have PTO organizations. Each school also offers parents the opportunity to become involved in site council, which meets once per month to discuss budgets, buildings, academics, needs and goals. Parents may also attend USD 443 Board of Education meetings, which are held once per month. “Parents that come to the board meetings learn so much about the process that happens in the district,” Ramsour said. “It’s always beneficial to hear what tax money is going to.” The consensus at area schools seems to be that parents are interested in getting more involved with schools and their students, but that their schedules often prohibit them from doing so. “Parents want to be involved but because of their schedules it’s very hard for them to come to school,” Ramsour said. “The majority of our parents are working parents,” King said. “That sometimes cuts down on the communications. They sometimes struggle with helping their children: the encouragement of getting a good education, motivating a child to learn. I think that’s lacking across the nation.” Local school principals indicated that one of the best ways parents can get involved with the school is to get involved with their child. “The more involved the parent is with the student, the more success the student feels,” Ramsour said. “Involvement in education is talking about it in the home,” King said. “… What we want them to get involved in is their child and have their child get involved in something.” Dodge City High School has eliminated PTO meetings altogether, opting instead to focus on things like booster clubs that place the parents’ attention directly where the student is involved. According to Principal Jacque Feist, the transition has increased parent involvement. “We made a point effective about five years ago to focus our parent involvement where students have interest,” Feist said. “What we have found is that the parents are much more interested in getting involved with schools if it supports students directly.” Feist said that parents can contribute a great deal to their students’ success by helping plot an academic plan of study through their high school career. Dodge City schools provide a number of opportunities for parents to communicate with the school and voice any concerns they may have. Most are informal, as teachers make an effort to be available to talk with parents. The schools also offer meetings and distribute information for parents who only speak Spanish. More formal avenues also exist. The school district has a Facebook and Twitter page and many schools have their own Twitter pages, which they use to provide information. Information is also available on school websites. Northwest Elementary posts its PTO meeting times on its website, www.usd44.3org/northwest.cfm. Dodge City Middle School has a parent section on its website, www.usd443.org/middle.cfm, along with contact and comment sections, the site council’s agenda and a bully referral form. They also provide information through text messages via their “Remind 101” program. The high school posts newsletters on its website, www.usd443.org/high.cfm. “Parents want information but it has to be in a format and time frame that works for them,” Feist said.