Parent Forums Invite Parents to Explore Topics That Matter Most to Them
Every summer, parents of students at Olympic View Middle School receive a “Welcome Back” packet in the mail. Included is a flier that explains the Parent Forums, and invites parents to choose the topics for discussion that year. Several topics are proposed, and parents may also write in their own requests. They return these completed fliers to school, the results are tallied, and the most popular topics become the Parent Forums for that school year.
In some cases, a new topic may be offered mid-year in response to outside events or a change at the school. For example, a “School Violence & Campus Safety” forum was added after the shootings at Virginia Tech. And when OV teachers began piloting standards-based grading, a Parent Forum was added to explain the new system and its benefits.
In the four years that Parent Forums have been offered at Olympic View, topics have included Attitudes & Behavior; Bullying; Drug & Alcohol Awareness; Homework & Grading; Internet Safety; Peer Relationships & Friends; School Violence & Campus Safety. Some topics are so popular, they are discussed every year. And this year, we plan to add a new Forum in the spring, geared specifically to the parents of eighth-graders: “Transitioning to High School.”
The Parent Forums are designed, presented and moderated by OV counselors and/or teachers. Many forums also offer an outside expert. Our guest speakers have included Martin Speckmaier, a nationally recognized school safety expert, and Linda Criddle, a senior program manager with Microsoft’s Internet Child Safety & Security Group. We’ve also featured the parents of a local honor student who became addicted to drugs and eventually went through rehab; they talked very candidly about their experience, and what they would do differently, had they known then what they know now. (That Forum was moderated by one of our school district’s Drug Intervention Specialists.)
The Parent Forums provide time for questions and answers, and parents always share their own experiences, frustrations and solutions. A typical Forum might include a 45-minute presentation and another 45 minutes of open discussion. We always provide parents with some written materials, including a list of helpful resources. Parents are frequently surprised at the resources that are available to them – sometimes it’s as simple as scheduling a meeting with one of our counselors.
The Parent Forums are held on a weekday evening, and are publicized via our e-mail list, our school’s monthly newsletter, our reader board, and the local newspaper. Parents from other nearby schools are also invited to attend. Our PTO provides refreshments and volunteer support for each event.
Olympic View Middle School’s Parent Forums help our parents feel more connected to our school, to one another and to their own students. They are a convenient way for parents to become informed about issues that matter to them, and to learn what resources are available. The Forums offer a powerful combination of expert advice plus tried-and-true suggestions from other families. Parents who attend remark that it’s an uplifting experience to hear others candidly share their concerns, plus what works in their own families.
Name of School, Organization, or Location of Program/Event:
Olympic View Middle School
Mukilteo, Washington 98275
Submitted by: , Principal
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