MUSCATINE — Grant Elementary School had its first meeting of the Parent Teacher Lighthouse Team. Though the school has had a traditional parent-teacher group in the past, administrators hope are the new parent teacher group will bring a new approach to parent involvement.
“Every elementary school has a parent teacher organization in Muscatine,” said Jessi Freers, principal of Grant. “At Grant, one of the things that happened as we went through the Lighthouse certification process, they give you a rubric on where you are at with several areas and one of those areas for us was family engagement.”
The hope is that by bringing parents to the table with their teachers, and having leadership opportunities for them available, they will be more inclined to come through the door and be involved with the school.
“I think PTOs have kind of gotten a bad rap because usually it is a very small group of people who are doing a lot of work,” Freers said. “So we're hoping that if we get a few people on board that we can spread out that work and we can really start to focus more on that feedback piece and working on that partnership rather than just the surface level fundraising type of stuff.”
The school’s leadership coach and magnet coordinator Leslie Bennett said that spreading the work across more parents will mean more people at the table and better decision making for the school’s future.
“We are hoping that we are dividing it up a little bit,” said Leslie Bennett, the leadership coach and magnet coordinator for Grant. “We know that for working parents, it is hard to commit to coming every month to a PTO meeting and participate in the projects.”
For this reason, Grant is creating avenues for parents who may not want to come to the monthly meetings. At the beginning of the year, they were given a questionnaire to see what events and committees they would be interested in volunteering for during the school year. The hope is to gain more involved parents.
“We're transitioning,” Bennett explained. “In the past, our PTO has kind of fizzled. One thing we thought we'd do this year, we are now calling it the Parent Teacher Lighthouse Team. We're trying to get parents and teachers involved so that there is more communication.”
The hope is to avoid the common issue of the same people showing up to do everything.
“And then — rather than having a PTO that is the same people doing everything and volunteering all of their time — we are hoping that we are dividing it up a little bit,” Bennett said.
Both Bennet and Freers are positive about the future of the group.
“I think we are going to get there,” Bennett said. “I think it is a process. I think this is a better turnout than we've had in the past, but it does tend to be like this and then it fizzles. So I hope by using the recruitment method that maybe it will prevent that. But I think it will be a gradual change.”
“What I'm looking for as far as success goes, is to see if we are having that back and forth communication with families,” Freers said. “And I'd like for that to go farther than just those people that can come to the meeting that they can voice ideas or concerns.”
One attending parent, Carrie Zorich, has two children at Grant. She said, “It is really hard to get parents here after work. A lot of the time it is the same faces each time. But every year they do try to do something fresh. I feel like their goal has always been to get parents through the doors to come to things.”