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District to launch ‘Parent University’ to involve families in child’s eduction

By MEGHAN BRADBURY - | Sep 16, 2020

“mailto:news@breezenewspapers.com”>news@breezenewspapers.comParent University, a community engagement program to help parents “advocate, educate and graduate” their kids, came before the School Board of Lee County last week.

The program to be implemented this fall “was created to increase the capacity of parents and guardians to be actively engaged in their child’s education,” officials said.

Strategic Communication Director Irma Lancaster said the idea is to offer monthly sessions for parents to help support their child’s education and learn about programs in the district. The hope is to have a Parent University graduation in the spring.

Community Engagement Coordinator Adam Molloy said Parent University is a way to get parents educated about how to best support their kids through creating agents of parents at each school site.

Some of the sessions Parent University will address is how to best support a student in Lee Home Connect and Lee Virtual School, which is likely to grab parents’ attention and involvement. Molloy said they want to work these sessions as a great chance for the district to create a special force of parents at their schools.

Molloy explained that as they create more involvement from parents at the schools it helps in connecting them to their community, which then creates a better chance at improving student achievement and outcomes.

Board member Chris Patricca initial reaction was that if the district were to ask her to do one more thing right now as a parent she would probably lose her mind.

“I don’t mean that as a criticism. How are you going to incentivize me to participate in the university?” she asked.

Lancaster said they are developing a plan for information being shared, classes surrounded around what parents want to know now.

Later in the meeting Patricca said she can see Parent University as a way of enhancing involvement at the school level and helping people overcome that intimidation of becoming involved in PTO.

Molloy said they thought launching Parent University at this time would be good, by not overwhelming parents but maximizing the heightened engagement the district currently has with the parents, especially for those who might not have had that heightened engagement previously.

The district plans on offering these classes virtually to offer flexibility, while maximizing that connection and understanding the parents needs. They have not decided on a platform yet for the virtual classes.

“The general idea is we really want to help them with some of their concerns and perhaps some of these sessions could really alleviate some of the questions and concerns they have about whatever the topic is,” Molloy said.

Superintendent Dr. Greg Adkins said Parent University is a similar concept of what the East Lee County Cooperative is exploring in terms of parent engagement. He said as educators they believe the community knows their doors are always open, which is not always a perception of the broader community.

It tells parents that the district needs them and wants them to be active participants in their child’s education, Adkins added.

Board member Betsy Vaughn said Parent University meshes well with the proximity plan because community schools are where the involvement really comes from.

Board member Cathleen O’Daniel Morgan said she considers community engagement a responsibility of the principal rather than pushing down from the district level to the school level.

Board member Gwyn Gittens shared that she sees the district as the trainer, teacher and empowerment. She said she sees the district as a conduit to help provide statements and tools to the local schools.

Molloy agreed that conduit was a great word to use as they designed Parent University to work alongside the schools, not about working from the top down.

“Parents, especially depending on socioeconomics status, are going to listen to those who have their children in their hands,” Gittens said. “I love the concept of Parent University. I think there is enough willing and capable people in our school setting that would love to be a part of something like this in their school setting.