Schools: Every Parent Can Contribute

christineBy Christine McLeod
Published: Sept 9, 2015


THERE is a lot of important work to be done in our schools that our principals and teachers need support with. What I know in my head and heart is every single parent can truly make a meaningful contribution.  Parents run businesses, manage teams, run households, you name it — they are incredibly capable but in reality they may not realize the work they can do because they may not be aware of the work to be done. This is where Parent Advisory Councils (PACs) come in.
PACs are the officially recognized collective voice of parents of their school, given an advisory role through the School Act. PACs support the principal and teachers in achieving schools goals and vision, fundraise, unify efforts towards quality education, provide input on school rules and conduct, safety programs and educational initiatives.
Here are 10 ways Squamish parents can get the most out of their PAC experience this school year.
1.    Ensure goals are clear to all : When people are connected to a vision and purpose they are more likely to find ways they can contribute. Instead of just “raising money”, attach it to something: This XYZ fundraiser is going to buy us 300 new library books for our K-3 section
2.    Live and breathe results. If you can’t measure it, how do you know if you have been successful? Pick a target, share progress, show results — and then raise the bar.
3.    Make it easy to get involved: Find ways to make it easy for all parents to contribute by being clear with the ask, giving plenty of notice and having a point person to coordinate and answer questions . Parents who work full-time or have peak seasons can contribute in a different way than stay-at-home parents, but they can still contribute.
4.    Respect people’s time: If I can read something on a website or in an email, I don’t need to come to a meeting to have someone read it to me. Use that face-to-face meeting time to discuss, listen and brainstorm.
5.    Communicate with intention: If you only communicate one way, you will only reach a certain percentage of parents: Email? In person? Facebook Group? Newsletter? Where would I go to find information about…? How do I want to receive information about ..? As a parent, the responsibility is yours to stay informed and up to date.
6.    Feedback is nothing to be scared about: How are we doing? What’s working well? What’s tricky? What do we need to do differently? Open and frequent feedback is non-judgemental. It brings to light perspectives and is most effective when attached to solutions.
7. Make the best use of people’s talents: You have doers who love to help but don’t want to lead. You have leaders who love to lead and get lost in the doing. And everyone in between. What is that parent best suited for?  What skill set do they feel passionate about contributing with?
8. Ask how you can help. Frequently:  Got an hour? A day that freed up? A time of year that is slower? Find your PAC executive or your child’s teacher and offer assistance. On the flip side, when someone offers their valuable time, be ready with something to give them by having an idea at all times of current and near-future priorities
9. Every hour counts: In a school with 300 students, if every parent could commit to one hour a month, that would give that school 6,000 volunteer hours. Can you imagine what an impact you could have?
10.  You matter: Know that every bit you help is making something better, faster, more effective, more successful, more organized… and that makes a big impact.