Reflecting on Parent Associations

Vol. 11 No. 8

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Now that summer is upon us (or for some, nearly upon us), it’s time to step back and reflect. You’re thinking of your successes and perhaps even a few areas you’d like to improve for the coming school year. As Admission Officer, you’re probably focused on building and strengthening your school’s community.

Reinforcing your Parent Association might be on your reflection list. You know if your Parent Association is positively focused and working for the benefit of your school. You also know if your association has lost sight of its mission. If it’s the latter, you might want to take into consideration some of the following points to guide your parent organization in its efforts to enhance your school—building enthusiasm among your families.

The Parent Association mission statement. Parent organizations should be formed with a clear set of guidelines and expectations. Otherwise, it is easy for the members to expand the range of their activities and influence—and it will be difficult for the school to say, “That’s not what we had in mind.”

The mission statement might read:
“The ABC School Parent Association supports the school’s mission financially and in other ways, as defined by the strategic plan and as requested by the administration. We provide program-enhancing activities for administrators, faculty, and staff, and offer support and social opportunities for current parents.”

The Parent Association and governance The organization should not be established as a separate legal entity. As such, it might be responsible for filing its own tax forms and carrying liability insurance. Often, neither the school nor the group itself is aware of these requirements.

The Parent Association is organized at the pleasure of the Board and operated by parents; it works directly with the Management Team, and a school administrator serves as liaison.

The Parent Association and finances. It is important for the Parent Association to have input concerning the disbursement of the income it generates through fund-raising activities and other sources. However, the organization should not operate as an independent financial entity with its own bank account(s) or direct control over how the money is spent. Funds raised by the parent organization belong to the school and should be managed, as all schools funds are, by the Business Manager.

Parents who are heavily involved in your school might perceive the Parent Association as an organization they can join to give their opinions and visions more impact.

Involved parents, as those in your Parent Association, may want to venture into other areas of your school’s administrative responsibilities, such as getting rid of a bad teacher or financially supporting a specific activity or function. This group of parents is not exclusive. They are not more powerful than your school’s administration or other families—their role is to serve your school as your school has defined the committee’s boundaries. This does not give them more authority or influence than other families, and they may need to be reminded of their organization’s limits.

However, although it’s important that the roles of your Parent Association don’t cross with administrative duties, it is important that they are blended into the school’s Parent Education Plan (PEP). Perhaps one of your concentrations this summer will be to strengthen your PEP, or if your school doesn’t have a clearly defined one, to establish one.

Aspects of the PEP may include:

Surveys. These tools help identify the interests of your current families in terms of service opportunities, educational programs, and social activities. Surveys can be used to obtain just about any sort of information you need.

Parent communications. A comprehensive PEP includes not only parent involvement, but information directed to parents about your school and how your school is working to fulfill its mission. Keeping the communication channels open with your families engages them and reinforces their decision to join your school’s community. This goes beyond your school newsletter. Parent communications should utilize various channels including social media, print, and events.

Social opportunities. Parents want and need to feel connected. Do not underestimate the effectiveness of well-executed events to build camaraderie and a sense of belonging.

Additional ISM articles of interest
ISM Monthly Update for Admission Officers Vol. 8 No. 5 Part One: A New Generation of Parents

Additional ISM articles of interest for Gold Consortium members
I&P Vol. 38 No. 5 Community Service and Service Learning: Designing a Successful Program
I&P Vol. 26 No. 15 Your Parent Education Plan During Uncertain Times

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