Frequently Asked Questions About ParentNet®

Browse our list of frequently asked questions by parents, school principals, faculty liaisons, and trainers.


Parents


What is the quickest, easiest way for me learn about ParentNet?

We suggest you start at the ParentNet Program Page and follow suggestions for learning about ParentNet. The ParentNet Starter Kit is the essential reference tool for the program and can be purchased from our online store. 

What is the difference between ParentNet meetings and a PTA or PTO meeting?

PTA/PTO meetings typically focus on special events and fundraising to support school sports and clubs, and other costs not supported by the school budget. These are business meetings with business agendas. Although PTAs/PTOs provide avenues for parent involvement, they do not bring same grade-level parents together to learn how they can support the academic, social, and emotional development of their children. This is ParentNet's primary focus. In many schools, ParentNet becomes an official program of the PTA/PTO and is funded by them. However, some schools prefer to keep ParentNet organizationally separate from the PTA/PTO and position it as a new and unique parent-school collaboration.

Why should parents be involved at school?

Do we know that it really makes a positive difference for our children? We absolutely know it makes a difference in the academic, social, and emotional development of our children when parents are involved in their child's education. Read some of the research in this field and you will learn why programs like ParentNet make a difference for our kids.

Why is this program so structured? Can't we just get together as parents and talk about our kids?

While ParentNet meetings are structured, they are also very flexible at the same time. The program's structure makes it effective at meeting the needs of parents and the school. When parents get together to talk in an unstructured environment, too many things can go awry. Rumors begin, gossip occurs, and people can collude with others against the school. These behaviors are destructive to building supportive communities. When parents are trained to be effective facilitators of the process, amazing conversations occur and new roads to communication are built. Your school's faculty liaison also attends meetings and eases communications between parents and the school, thus strengthening the student-parent-school bond. As one parent said, "I can relax at the meetings knowing the discussion won't get negative. The structure ensures that the conversation stays on-topic and positive, and that no one can steer the discussion off-course. The fact that everyone agrees ahead of time on how we're going to interact - according to the Parent Contract - is a huge plus."

What is the average level of parent participation at ParentNet Meetings?

Based on collected statistics from our original member schools, the average parent participation at ParentNet Meetings is about 30 percent. That means that in a class of 100 students, an average ParentNet Meeting is attended by 30 parents. ParentNet meetings almost always draw a bigger, more diverse group than PTA meetings, for example.

What kinds of parents volunteer for ParentNet? Ca n we expect to get any others than those who already volunteer for everything else at our school?

Schools that started ParentNet have reported that the program brought a new group of volunteers to the school. This is not to say that current parent leaders have not been instrumental in launching ParentNet - they certainly have been. However, this program is very different than most other volunteer jobs at school. Because the commitment of time for facilitators is quite reasonable and because ParentNet meetings are often held in the evenings, parents with full-time jobs can manage the time. Parents in the helping professions like therapists, social workers, and educators are often drawn to this type of volunteering and enjoy the interaction with others.

What kind of time commitment does it take to launch ParentNet?

We suggest that a school have a team of two to three ParentNet co-chairs to share the work of organizing the program. The best way to get a sense of the time commitment is to review our free publication "ParentNet At Your School: A Guide for Parent Leaders, Educators and Trainers." Launching ParentNet at your school is an investment that will reward your school greatly. It is important to make a two-year initial commitment before passing the leadership to others.

Our resources are already stretched thin. How can I convince others that ParentNet is a worthwhile program?

It's very important to understand that ParentNet is not just "another school program." Although we call it a program, it is really an ongoing "process" that can positively improve your entire school culture. When properly implemented, it can have profound, lasting effects on parents, students and faculty. ParentNet meetings also have a way of drawing in parents who don't participate in typical school events. We encourage you to read and share with others the personal testimonials of parents and educators whose schools have been strengthened by ParentNet.

What is the most important predictor of ParentNet's success?

ParentNet's success rests firmly in the hands of parents. It was a grassroots effort of parents that led to the development of ParentNet and it is parent volunteers who can take responsibility for its success. Statistics from participating schools clearly indicate that the greater the size of each volunteer grade-level committee, the greater overall participation by parents in the school. That said, it is also important to have administrative and faculty support! Some schools now have the job of ParentNet Faculty Liaison built into a school counselor or faculty person's job description. This ensures continuity from year to year.

What will this program cost?

ParentNet is a low-cost program for schools. After eleven years of initial development with grants from individuals and foundations, we are now able to offer participation in ParentNet free to schools. Most materials can be downloaded free from this website. Supplemental materials can be purchased from our online store. Additional local costs may include fees paid to trainers or faculty liaisons. Our free publication, "ParentNet At Your School: A Guide for Parent Leaders, Educators, and Trainers" shows you how to evaluate the cost for your school.

How can we expect our parent community to change as a result of ParentNet?

Schools that have ParentNet report that their schools have increased overall parent participation, improved parent-school communication and are better able to connect parents with one another to form more unity at grade levels.

What is the time commitment for volunteer facilitators?

Volunteer facilitators normally lead small group discussion groups at one ParentNet Meeting in the fall and one or two meetings in the spring. In addition they attend an annual facilitator training and a mid-year facilitator review. In total, the average facilitator's time commitment is about 12-15 hours per year.

What is the time co mmitment for parents who choose to attend ParentNet Meetings?

ParentNet Meetings last for two hours and are generally held two to three times per year at each grade level. A parent with one child would spend 4-6 hours of time. A parent with children at various grade levels would spend more.

If we start the ParentNet program, can we adapt it to meet the needs of our school?

Absolutely! There is alot of flexibility in ParentNet and we believe each school must use it with their own needs in mind. Please read our Use Policy for further details.

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School Principals

What is the quickest, easiest way for me learn about ParentNet?

We suggest you start at the ParentNet Program Page and follow suggestions for learning about ParentNet. The ParentNet Starter Kit is the essential reference tool for the program and can be purchased from our online store. 

How much of my time will ParentNet take?

The quick answer -- almost none! This is a parent-implemented and led program. The most important factor for its success is your belief in the value of this type of parent involvement and your support of the parents leading the effort. Principals usually talk about ParentNet at appropriate school events, ensure that faculty and staff understand the program, and help recognize parent volunteers.

Should someone on my staff oversee ParentNet?

While ParentNet is a parent-led effort, we think you can more easily maintain the program from one year to the next if it is part of a staff or faculty member's job description. This can be a paid volunteer coordinator, a school counselor, or other faculty liaison who stays on top of the program, works with parent leaders, and ensures trainings/meetings are scheduled. The answer to this question truly depends on the current level of your parent leadership.

What is the difference between ParentNet meetings and a PTA or PTO meeting?

PTA/PTO meetings typically focus on special events and fundraising to support school sports and clubs, and other costs not supported by the school budget. These are business meetings with business agendas. Although PTAs/PTOs provide avenues for parent involvement, they do not bring same grade-level parents together to learn how they can support the academic, social, and emotional development of their children. This is ParentNet's primary focus. In many schools, ParentNet becomes an official program of the PTA/PTO and is funded by them. However, some schools prefer to keep ParentNet organizationally separate from the PTA/PTO and position it as a new and unique parent-school collaboration.

What will ParentNet do for my school?

ParentNet will increase parent involvement and develop a closer connection between parents and the school. Parents who attend ParentNet meetings will not only gain skills to help their children thrive academically, socially, and emotionally, but they will also learn positive ways of communicating with the school on topics of concern or interest. The school administration and staff will gain a better understanding of the issues facing parents and will find ways to work together to achieve solutions and results. ParentNet is also very helpful in bringing together parents of various ethnic and cultural backgrounds to learn from one another.

What type of schools have successfully implemented ParentNet?

Since 1996, ParentNet has been successfully launched in both private and public schools and at all levels, elementary, middle, and high school. We have greatly involved our participating schools in program development and improvement and have refined our training programs to meet the needs of parents and schools. You can read numerous testimonials by principals, parents, and other school staff throughout this section of our website.

Have any schools been unsuccessful with ParentNet and why?

Yes, several of our original schools who started ParentNet decided to discontinue the program after 2 or 3 years. Although those parents and school personnel speak very highly of ParentNet, the schools lacked sufficient parent leadership to sustain the program. As a result of our experience in schools that have not been able to maintain the program, we now offer a variety of ways to launch ParentNet, from very small involvement (limited to one or two grades, for example) to total school involvement. We also offer specific suggestions for schools with low parent involvement where the goal for the first few years is to develop parent leadership.

Has ParentNet conducted research in schools to show improvement in parent involvement or student achievement?

To date, ParentNet has not conducted its own research in schools, other than to solicit feedback from parents, faculty, and administrators and to collect statistics on participation. We have thus far relied on the current research that shows a direct correlation between parent involvement and the facilitation of student intelligence, achievement, and competence. Our program has been particularly inspired by the research of Joyce Epstein of John Hopkins University, Ann T. Henderson of New York University, and the Search Institute of Minneapolis. Ann T. Henderson currently serves on our National Advisory Board.

If this is a parent-led program, why do we need to have a faculty liaison attend ParentNet Meetings?

The faculty liaison role has proven to be vital to the success of ParentNet for several reasons. First, it provides parents with access to a "school voice" when they need to learn how to problem-solve or get additional information that is important to them. Second, it is a way for the school to communicate information to parents regarding academic goals, school reform, policy, etc. It is also a great value to the school to know that ParentNet meetings are running smoothly and effectively.

Can a parent speaker or parenting education program integrate with ParentNet?

Absolutely! Many of our participating schools hold more formal parenting education programs in addition to ParentNet. What occurs as a result is an enrichment of parent discussions at ParentNet meetings. Parents are able to test the ideas from more formal programs, then discuss their experiences with them in ParentNet meetings. As part of ParentNet, we also provide a design for a ParentNet Forum. This is an opportunity for numerous grades to hear the same speaker, then break into grade-level facilitated discussions of how to apply the learning to their particular children.

What will this program cost?

ParentNet is a low-cost program for schools. After eleven years of initial development with grants from individuals and foundations, we are now able to offer participation in ParentNet free to schools. Most materials can be downloaded free from this website. Supplemental materials can be purchased from our online store. Additional local costs may include fees paid to trainers or faculty liaisons. Our free publication, "ParentNet At Your School: A Guide for Parent Leaders, Educators, and Trainers" shows you how to evaluate the cost for your school. Some schools have used Title I funds for this program.

If we start the ParentNet program, can we adapt it to meet the needs of our school?

Absolutely! There is alot of flexibility in ParentNet and we believe each school must use it with their own needs in mind. Please read our Use Policy for further details.

Our school doesn't have the time or resources to post ParentNet Meeting Summaries to a website or email them to parents. Can we still participate?

Yes! You are in the driver's seat when it comes to administrating your program. Figure out how it will work best for you. Start small. Build as time goes on.

How can I be assured that ParentNet meetings won't turn into a gripe session on school issues?

The Parent Contract provides guidelines for discussion and stresses that ParentNet meetings are never a forum to argue school policy or curriculum issues nor a setting to discuss individual faculty and administrators. Volunteer parent facilitators and the ParentNet Faculty Liaison receive excellent training on how to reinforce this contract during meetings.

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Faculty Liaisons

What is the easiest way for me to learn about ParentNet?

We suggest you start at the ParentNet Program Page and follow suggestions for learning about ParentNet. The ParentNet Starter Kit is the essential reference tool for the program and can be purchased from our online store. 

What is my role at ParentNet meetings?

At meetings, the Faculty Liaison shifts from a more active educator/counselor role to that of a consultant/liaison role, responding to parent initiated requests for resources, information, or interpretation of school policy.

What is my role after the ParentNet meeting?

The Faculty Liaison can be helpful after the meeting in bringing parent questions and issues for follow-up to the attention of the administration or appropriate staff. The Faculty Liaison may also be asked to read and approve all meeting summaries before they are distributed to the broader school community.

Who should take on the role of the ParentNet Faculty Liaison and can there be more than one person in this role?

School counselors or faculty members who have a commitment to the goals of the program and are good communicators are best suited to be Faculty Liaisons. Often, schools have more than one staff member taking this role. It is best to select someone from the faculty/staff who will be viewed in a neutral way by the parent community.

Isn't this role a conflict of interest for a school counselor? Won't it diminish the trust that students place in them?

On the contrary, the majority of our schools have involved their counselors in this role. It is important for both students and parents to understand that a school counselor does not attend ParentNet in their role as counselor. Rather, they attend as a school liaison to help guide parents when needed. They never divulge confidential information about students or the school, nor do they share confidential information shared at ParentNet meetings. Being a Faculty Liaison benefits a school counselor in numerous ways. They get to know the families of students, better understand their particular challenges, and can often apply their knowledge when working with students. Counselors are often well-suited for this role because they are familiar with group process skills and are good communicators.

How much time will this take?

A Faculty Liaison(s) attends every ParentNet meeting as well as the annual facilitator training and mid-year facilitator review. Typically, two to three ParentNet meetings are held each year at each grade level. Depending on the size of your school and the number of ParentNet meetings scheduled, you can approximate the amount of time this will take.

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Trainers

What is the quickest, easiest way for me learn about becoming a ParentNet Trainer?

We suggest you start at the ParentNet Program Page and follow suggestions for learning about ParentNet. The ParentNet Starter Kit is the essential reference tool for the program and can be purchased from our online store. 

Do all ParentNet programs need a trainer?

Yes, in order to have a successful program, parent facilitators must be trained each year. The first year's training program usually takes more time (approx 5 hours) because the program and skills are new to parents. In future years, the training will take less time as people develop skills and experience with the program.

Do I need to be an experienced trainer?

Yes, trainers who lead ParentNet Training workshops at schools must have a background in leading experiential training and skill-development workshops. They should have a knowledge and understanding of group process and facilitation skills as well as excellent up-front training skills.

Will you train me to be a ParentNet Trainer?

Although we did provide training for trainers during our initial ten-year development, we made the decision not to become a national training organization. Instead, we rely on those people who have training experience, like human resource professionals, counselors, therapists, professional trainers, and others who work with parenting groups and schools such as trainers certified to lead "Love and Logic," "Active Parenting," "Positive Discipline," etc. Experienced trainers will quickly understand our materials, workshop designs and activities.

What resources does NPNA provide to trainers?

You can purchase the Starter Kit through our online store. It includes everything you need to know to lead ParentNet Facilitator Training, including training designs, handouts, structured activities, and resources. And, it also gives you copies of our other publications. You can find many online resources to support your work at ParentNet Central.

Will I be paid for being a ParentNet Trainer?

ParentNet trainers are both paid and volunteer. This will depend entirely upon your relationship with the school, whether you have a child in the school, or if you consider ParentNet a part of your volunteer or professional activities. Paid trainers negotiate their fees directly with schools, not through the National ParentNet Association.

If I want to become a ParentNet Trainer, what will it cost and how will schools find me?

We don't charge you anything to become a ParentNet Trainer. You can find lots of free resources on this website. Supplemental materials, such as the Starter Kit with Training Manual, flip charts, brochures, videos, etc. can be purchased through the online store. We suggest that you list your services in our Consultant Directory so that schools can find you. However, we also suggest that ParentNet Trainers develop their own marketing program to schools in their area.

 


Select a grade below to see what parents discussed at recent ParentNet Meetings.

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Grade 11 Grade 12
 

 

 

"ParentNet further enhances the business of the school, concentrating on developing the whole child."

Independent Day School
Tampa, FL

 

 

 

"After our first-ever round of meetings, whenever we were wrapping up, someone would ask, 'When is our next meeting?' When we responded that we would get together in April, the response was always something like, 'Not until Spring? That's way too long to wait. We should meet more often!' We very quickly got a sense that our community could use ParentNet."

Polly Stone
ParentNet Chair
Blue Oak School
Napa, CA

 

 

 

"ParentNet has helped me stay connected with other parents during the high school years, which I consider some of the most challenging years of parenting. A group of us parents agreed to stay in touch and call each other if there was ever a concern. One Saturday morning, about 2 a.m., I received a phone call from a parent, worried about his daughter. To make a long story short, she was with a group of kids, including mine, at a friend's house. I was able to give him the information he needed and calm his fears. He told me if it weren't for ParentNet he would not have made the phone call at that hour. I was glad he did! For many parents like me who have made ParentNet a priority, we've benefited in ways too numerous to mention."

Carole Long
ParentNet Chair
Catlin Gabel School
Portland, OR

 

 

 

"The Parent Contract is incredibly important, because it sets some structure and boundaries around a meeting. It could be very intimidating to walk into a meeting and not know what it's about and what it's not about. It lets people stay within their comfort zone, it keeps people on track, and it provides a level of structure that people feel much more comfortable with."

Kim Axelrod
ParentNet Facilitator
Emily Dickenson Elem School
Redmond, WA

 



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