Meeting with Intermediate School Principals
On Friday, December 11, 2013, members of the PEIHSF executive (Shelley Muzika, Ellen Campbell, Shirley Jay and Peter Rukavina) met with principals from the Island's intermediate schools to talk about issues of common concern. The challenges of parent engagement at the intermediate level is an issue that comes up often around home and school discussions, and this meeting provided us with an opportunity to talk directly with administrators about how to confront this.
We focused on five key areas of concern:
- Transition from Elementary to Intermediate. We know that many parents who are engaged at the elementary level find it challenging to stay involved at the intermediate level: the opportunities for participation in the life of the school are different, and the challenges of making new connections to a new parent community can be similar to the challenges our children face in adapting to a new school. We discussed the possibility of a "transition plan," similar to the one in place for students, for home and school volunteers: for example, the intermediate home and schools might invite the elementary home and schools for a meeting late in the school year to aid in the transition.
- Students Achieve System (SAS). This is the first year that SAS is mandated for use at the intermediate level, and we shared concerns about inconsistent use of the system by teachers. Principals agreed that this is an area of concern, and that many factors contribute to it: technology, training, resources, etc. Also, many teachers are using other web resources – blogs, etc. – as a communication tool, and find it challenging to keep these up and SAS. We suggested that there is a need for a common, consistent standard that parents can rely on, and reinforced how valuable a communications tool that SAS can be for parents when used fully.
- Dicussion of Provincial Common Assessment Results. We relayed information from discussions with the English Language School Board Superitendent regarding the value of administrators sharing and interpreting the Provincial Common Assessment results with parents, and indicated our willingness to work with principals to support this. This was well-received.
- Dicussion of SHAPES Survey Results. We reported on the 2013 resolution related to sharing of SHAPES health survey results with parents, and offered examples of how sharing SHAPES data can be a valuable conversation starter about mental and physical health issues around the home and school table. This idea was also well-received.
- Parent Leadership Grant Program. We discussed the grant program, and the next deadline (Feb. 28, 2014) and encouraged principals to work with their local home and schools to come up with a program of parent engagement activities. We encouraged intermediate schools to consider partnering either with other intermediate schools, or with their elementary feeder schools on projects ($1000-per-school amounts can be combined if several schools apply jointly).
The discussion on these topics was healthy, and we felt well-received by the principals. The general underlying theme of our discussions was that "there's no such thing as too much communication," and the better that intermediate schools can communicate to parents, the more engaged parents will be.
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