School, family, and community partnerships are an important component of Steekee Elementary's success. The top priority at Steekee is to provide a safe, caring environment for students. We want everyone entering the school to experience a welcoming atmosphere. This is accomplished through the teamwork of strong school leaders, professional friendly teachers, and parent volunteers. A focused safety plan, juvenile citation program, and involved school resource officer make the school a safe place for learning. We believe it is essential to include parents in decision-making, resource allocation, school improvement planning, and service projects. In addition, we provide many opportunities for parents to visit the school and be a part of the day-to-day activities. Our guidance counselor also coordinates with local social agencies to provided needed medical and emotional support to our students and parents. Local businesses have partnered with the school and provide many financial and technical resources.
The benefits of parent and community involvement are directly related to student achievement, attitude, and overall school success. Students who have involved parents make better grades, are more respectful, and score higher on standardized tests. Discipline issues are reduced when there is frequent, consistent communication between school and home. Parents and students who have "ownership" in the school work harder to make it a success. Teachers report increased job satisfaction and fewer instructional disruptions.
A key to a successful outreach program involves the atmosphere of the school. Parents must truly feel welcome in the school building and believe that their volunteer hours will make a difference in the lives of the students. At the beginning of each school year, parents receive a parent volunteer registration form in their child’s folder. This form lists the numerous opportunities for school service and provides space of parents to indicate other strengths or talents.
Another aspect of a successful parent engagement plan is to include parents in decision-making and school improvement planning. This is accomplished in many ways. Parents serve on school committees such as Safety Committee and Coordinated School Health Committee. No School Improvement Plan (SIP) is complete without parent and stakeholder involvement. Each SIP Committee has a parent serving alongside teachers. They help collect data, gather information, analyze strengths and challenges, and set goals and time lines for the various accomplishments. Steekee hosts 3 "ALL ON BOARD" programs each year and invites parents to the school for a planning session, and participation in activities with their children. An average of 30-40 parents attend and complete a simple exercise of identifying programs/procedures they wanted to KEEP, START, or STOP. These sessions are facilitated by County instructional supervisors, and the results are publicized in the school newsletter. The information is used in school improvement planning.
Steekee teachers and administrators believe good communication is key to a winning parent involvement plan. Communication must be easy, open, and two-way between school and home. This process begins before school even starts. All teachers mail letters to their new class of students during the summer. They tell the students and parents a little about themselves and the expectations of their grade level. They remind them of important dates and school supply needs. They also have parents mark their calendars for special grade level “Parent Nights” to be held during the first week of school. On Registration Day, we ask that all parents and students visit the school (this includes new students as well as those who have attended the school). This gives the parent and child an opportunity to meet the teacher, visit the classroom, and have some personal time to ask questions or address concerns. During the first week of school, every grade level hosts a Parent Night. Parents come to the school, hear a short message from the principal and guidance counselors, and then adjourn to their child’s classroom. The teachers prepare a short presentation explaining structure and expectations of the grade level. This is followed by time spent answering questions and getting to know each other. Students in grades K-5 receive student folders to help develop organizational skills and serve as a communication tool between home and school. Parents are asked to go over the planner and discuss topics with their child. They are also asked to sign the planner each week, and there is space for parents to write notes back to the teacher. Other forms of communication are weekly “Friday Notes” with advance organizers of the next week’s topics of study, teacher and school web pages, monthly “Steekee News” newsletters from the administrative staff. Parents are invited to the school for various award programs, field trips, and fine arts programs and displays.
Parents have been an invaluable resource in large scale school projects. Each year Steekee raises $17,000-$18,000 for the school’s instructional supply and technology needs. Parents help in maintenance needs such as mulching, weeding, moving classroom furniture, etc., and they always ask if there is anything else that needs to be done.
When first initiating a parent/community involvement program, there will be some “bumps in the road.” But, we at Steekee have discovered that the more our parents have been allowed to serve, the more benefits the school reaps in return.