Gloversville Enlarged School District has set aside rooms in each school for adult visitors. These “Parent Rooms” have been designed to help achieve the goal of two-way communication between the school and the community.
“There is often the perception that to be involved in your child’s education, parents must dedicate several hours a week – something that many parents are unable to do,” said Janice Blodgett, Elementary Family and Community Educator for Gloversville.
“We want to have a place that makes families comfortable in the schools at their convenience,” she said. “A place where connections can be made and support can be offered.”
Making families comfortable
The rooms, each a little different, all feature a comfortable place to congregate and offer coffee, games, computer access, and a selection of literature offering advice on how parents can be involved in school.
In addition to Mrs. Blodgett, the district employs a high school academic family facilitator, Matt Sherman, and a middle school family and community educator, Paul Meher. There are also two parent involvement coordinators for Universal Pre-Kindergarten: Karen Grich at Boulevard and Robin Simonds at Meco/McNab. Among their duties is to invite adults into the school and get them involved with the education of Gloversville’s pupils.
“Most importantly, the room offers a place where parents can close the door and talk to another parent about any challenges or struggles their children may have in school,” said Mrs. Blodgett.
If a parent seeks help for a child who is struggling in school, the family facilitators work with the parent and seek resources. Those resources might be community-based programs, in such venues as the public library or the YMCA. Connections will be made between parents, teachers, and community agencies to support raising successful children.
The space is also set aside for programs for adults living in Gloversville — classes in job training, parenting, nutrition, and preparation for the General Education Development test. All these meet neighborhood needs, Blodgett said.
Blodgett said the greatest challenge is assuaging parents’ discomfort about being in schools. Sometimes, that’s based on intimidation.
“Parents are sometimes terrified to seek help or get involved. They may not know what questions to ask, or don’t always understand the education terminology that the teacher uses. Parents’ discomfort in the schools is sometimes based on their childhood memories of the classroom,” she said.
Other challenges include homes with single parents, or with two parents who both work full time, it can be difficult to get parents into the school with their children.
“It’s not that they’re not interested but because their financial status means they’re always working,” said Mrs. Blodgett.
“If we can get two parents involved who never participated in school before, that’s a big thing for us, and it’s a big thing for the children – to see Mom and Dad coming to school events for the very first time. That’s what it’s all about.”
Open the doors wide
Frank Pickus, the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction, said it helps schools greatly to have someone besides administrators and teachers reaching out to get the community involved – and offering them a room of their own whenever they enter the school.
“We need to take every opportunity to reach parents to say ‘the doors are open, please come in,’” said Mr. Pickus.