Panel putting focus on parental involvement

Staff Writer

HOWELL— The members of the Community Interaction Committee of the Howell K-8 School District Board of Education discussed ways to encourage parental involvement in the district’s three middle schools at their Nov. 14 meeting.

In addition to the committee members who were present, several administrators from the middle schools attended the meeting and discussed the need to make parents more active participants in their children’s education.

Paul Farley, the principal of Howell Middle School North, said parents are involved when it comes to special events, student recognition and volunteer activities, but he said educational support is lacking.

“We certainly couldn’t do all the wonderful things we do for the students without that type of volunteering and it is much appreciated, but those areas are not directly related to education,” Farley told the committee.

One educational activity for which the board is trying to attract attention is the third annual Parent Academy to be held on March 24 at Howell Middle School North, Squankum-Yellowbrook Road. The event has a snow date of April 21.

Laurie Bandlow, the principal of Howell Memorial Middle School, said workshops that will be offered at the Parent Academy will be designed to get parents engaged in their children’s education.

She agreed with Farley’s assertion that parental involvement with a child’s education “clearly relates to academic achievement.”

Bandlow said the Parent Academy has not had a budget in the past two years and has been run by volunteers. She said she is hoping the school board will consider appropriating some funds for a keynote speaker.

“It would be in the ballpark of $1,000, I’m just throwing that around, I’m not sure,” she said. “We do need a good draw with a really good message.”

Additional educational activities and communication tools offered by the district include Back to School Nights, open houses, a Parent Portal on the Internet, teacher websites, school websites and social media.

Farley also highlighted the importance of parental involvement with direct educational support, noting that students are more apt to succeed when parents assist them with homework, emphasize the value of education and provide some form of tutelage.

“If we really want to see student achievement improve, that’s an area of focus,” he said. “This might be the most difficult [item] to address as a school district.”

Superintendent of Schools Enid Golden said the challenge is twofold as interest in parental involvement wanes for parents and students alike during a child’s middle school years.

“I think everyone can agree that parents, by the time their students get to middle school, are not as involved as they are at the elementary level,” Golden said.

She said middle school students, unlike pupils who are still in elementary school, often do not want their parents involved with their school experience.

“At the middle school level it’s really the opposite, it’s embarrassing [for them] to see their parents in the building,” she said.

Despite all of the challenges facing school district administrators, Golden said getting parents involved with their children’s education is important.

“We know there is a direct link between parental involvement and student achievement,” the superintendent said.