“Visitors must report to the principal’s office.”
It’s not much of a welcome, but that’s the typical sign posted at the entrance of every Long Beach school.
And both the sign and the tone it sets have to go, says a group advising the Long Beach Board of Education on how to increase parent involvement in the schools.
That was one of dozens of recommendations the board received Monday from the Improving Parent Involvement Task Force in an effort to create a friendlier atmosphere and encourage parents to take a more active role in their children’s education.
The suggestions ranged from providing baby-sitting services for parents attending teacher conferences to giving parents more power to shape school policies, budgets and discipline plans.
The board praised the task force’s report Monday and said it will consider at a future meeting which recommendations to adopt.
“I love your idea of having a gentler sign,” board member Harriet Williams said.
Board member Mary Stanton said she liked the baby-sitting idea. A local parent-teacher organization offered such services to encourage parents to attend meetings, she said, “and it worked.”
Teachers need to be trained to encourage parent involvement, said Bob Hedges, head of the task force, which consisted of teachers, parents, administrators and other district employees.
For example, the group suggested, teachers could communicate more with parents by phone, mail and bulletins, and when necessary send notices home in different languages. They could also meet with parents at a school closer to the parents’ residence if their child is bused to school.
Teachers are very supportive of the idea of getting more parents involved in the school but would not favor mandatory programs that would make their work day longer, said Marilyn Bittle, executive director of the Teachers Assn. of Long Beach.
“Some of the recommendations that will mean additional time on the part of the teachers certainly are a concern to us,” Bittle said. “If it means that teachers do home visits--as I did when I was a teacher--or try to locate in an area closer to the parents’ home, that’s certainly something that would have to be voluntary. It’s very important we don’t add to the long hours teachers work.”
But Bittle added: “The only way that as teachers we can be successful is to have parents involved.”
Felice Strauss, president of the teachers’ union, played a key role in the creation of the task force earlier this year.
The task force also recommended that schools:
* Organize workshops to train parents in areas such as dropout prevention and parenting skills.
* Organize classes for parents interested in getting the equivalent of a high school diploma.
* Establish mandatory meetings for parents of children in kindergarten, sixth and ninth grades.
* Provide parents with transportation to meetings if necessary.
Hedges said the group wants to see more projects such as Family Math, a two-year program in which parents and their children attend mathematics classes after school at several elementary and middle schools in Long Beach.
They task force suggested that schools offer computer training to parents, for example.
“If we offered after-school computer classes for parents, they could see what their kids are learning in school,” Hedges said. “They’d benefit themselves and be able to help their children with their homework.”
The task force also recommended that the board itself establish a policy encouraging parent involvement, form committees to encourage such participation and approve parent-involvement coordinators.
“We need to have a stronger partnership between the teachers, parents, administrators and the community,” Hedges said.