When school opened for the majority of MPS schools this week, most every program had a new 30-hour-a-week parent coordinator paraprofessional on staff to help school staff and families build bridges.
The specifics on the new positions are in a post I wrote back in May.
“We’re all very excited about the new Parent Coordinators,” School Board Director Claire Zautke, whose District 7 covers the southwest side of the city, told me today. “Some of our highest performing schools also have a great, cohesive school climate where the administration, parents and teachers work together.
“My hope is that the Parent Coordinators will help to foster those relationships and climates in all our schools. I am looking forward to seeing what sort of innovative activities and strategies they’ll use to bring parents into school communities.”
At least one school’s coordinator has chosen to a strategy that includes social media and I think it’s a model that could be successfully duplicated at other schools.
Just under a week before the first day of school at traditional calendar MPS schools, one South Side school’s new coordinator set up a Facebook page for her position. (I’m leaving out the name of the school in case officials deem it improper or something. But, really, district HQ ought to be thrilled.)
Four days into the fall semester, the page already has 56 friends — including current (and past) teachers and parents — the coordinator has introduced herself to the school community — even posting a photo so they’ll know who she is when they see her. She’s posted about an orientation session for families and answered some parents’ questions.
Some might say there are privacy issues, but because the account is set up as a personal account (rather than a group or fan page), the coordinator can decide who to add as friends and can use the privacy settings to allow only accepted friends to view posts and the names of other friends.
A lot of families simply are not at school every day. Many kids ride the bus, many parents work and can’t be there often. A Facebook page not only fosters access to the parent coordinator for these families but also a chance to interact with other parents that they might not otherwise see or know.
“I think using a Facebook page help build a communal space for parents to go for information and to get to know one another is a good idea, but won’t necessarily work for everyone,” said Zautke.
“Not every family has access to internet and many of our parents are multilingual, so they’ll need other means of getting information. Like I said, I’m really excited to see all the cool ways that the Parent Coordinators are going to think of to engage their unique communities.”
Now that MPS has a full-time position for social media, it also ought to encourage the new parents coordinators to reach out to families through any means possible to build school spirit, volunteerism and community.
In fact, using social media might be one of the position’s duties, though it’s not specifically named, which says the parent coordinator, “Engages in activities which promote communication and understanding between the parent, school and the community.”