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  • Writer's pictureDr. Lisa Gonzales

The Secret Sauce for Parent Engagement

We know its hard...and perhaps even harder with the new California Dashboard. Not only do we have to encourage more parent engagement, but we have to figure out how to measure it, measure it, and then report it.

Are you looking for that special approach? That secret sauce?

Me too.

No, this blog isn't about having all the answers, because I really never do. I just have a few ideas of things I've tried and I've learned that sharing those helps others think through their opportunities and build on them. And then they share with me and I end up with more tools in my toolbox.

So what has worked? Over the years in many districts, I've found ways to create different advisories and task forces to work though specific topics or just provide additional feedback loops. When I was a Superintendent in Portola Valley, I found that creating a Superintendent's Roundtable was effective in sharing pending programmatic changes, garnering input before decisions were made, and listing to rumors that I needed to know about in the community. The group was made up of key staff members, much of the administrative team, two board members, union leaders, and parent leaders.

Fast forward to my current district, and I put out a survey to parents asking for volunteers in seven specific areas. Parents then signed up in droves to support the work, from which we were able to create diverse yet representative groups to round out the teams.

Effective community (and parent) engagement isn't created in a day, a week, a month or even a year. It comes over time with many staff members working to promote programs, opportunities, and decrease the need to have all the answers and all of the control. Building trust takes time, and in an environment where that trust was somehow destroyed at some point, the work takes on a whole new meaning and purpose. Rebuilding that which was broken begins with open, two-way discourse.

And parents need to know they have been heard.

Ultimately, that is what is the backbone of parent engagement - listening, learning, discussing, trusting. Got any great ideas on how you've effectively done this? Do share!

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