A parent is a child’s first and most lasting teacher.
So the Westminster School District has several programs designed to get parents involved. For the WSD, the idea is simple.
“Students achieve more when their parents are involved,” said Peter Barajas, ESP site supervisor at Hayden Elementary.
There are six keys to parent involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and collaborating, said Linda Baxter, assistant superintendent of educational services.
Each parent program is based on at least one of those keys. More important though, each program is designed to build and strengthen relationships between parents, children and teachers.
“Every component of parent involvement must begin with a relationship,” Baxter said. “Until you build a personal relationship, you won’t get very far.”
The Parent Teacher Association, or PTA, is of course the “granddaddy” of all parenting programs and is still going strong in Westminster. Warner Middle School principal Matthew Skoll called PTA members the ultimate volunteers who become part of the solution.
The Westminster PTA focuses on increasing on-time attendance through its “Ready Rabbit” campaign. Ready Rabbit is always on time as opposed to his friend “Tardy Turtle.” The PTA created a variety of coloring books and bookmarks featuring the characters.
The “Parenting Partners” program features free workshops on parenting and building leadership skills. The results for students, said Baxter, is increased attendance, improved grades and fewer discipline problems both at home and in school. The program has become so popular there are waiting lists at some sites.
“Parenting Partners develops leaders,” Baxter said.
Many schools also offer parent nutrition classes. These hour-long classes teach parents how to make healthy choices for their children and how to eat healthy while saving money. Parents also learn about physical activities for the whole family.
Parent Power Lunches incorporate learning opportunities for parents into a social and even familial setting. On Sept 30, about 200 parents attended a power lunch at Finley Elementary featuring a series of workshops.
Parents took part in a “Cooking With Your Family” workshop and learned techniques for stopping cyber bullying.
Aside from district-wide programs, individual schools have also created their own parent programs.
At Schmitt Elementary, the parent involvement program is SPARK, which stands for Schmitt Parents Accelerating Results for Kids.
The SPARK program provides opportunities for parents to work with teachers and to learn strategies for working with their students at home. It also provides on-going adult-learning opportunities on campus.
To inquire about any of these or other parent opportunities, parents should contact their child‘s school office or talk to a teacher.