Our next candidate question for the Hayward Unified School District trustee hopefuls had to do with a perceived lack of communication between the district, teachers and parents.
Parents, teachers and residents have criticized the district for failing to communicate effectively with the community. Some work has been done to help alleviate that problem with a revamped Web site and a public relations officer. What other ways as a school board member would you help the district improve its overall communication with the community?
I would like to build a better cultural partnership with our diverse community. From speaking with some parents, I found that one of the major communication problems is the issue of language barrier. I would like to implement an outreach program that can bridge the gap between the schools and the English-language learner community. One way to achieve this is by recruiting help from the different cultural organizations to be available to interpret critical situations that require immediate attention. This solution would be in addition to the existing service provided by the district.
As a member of the school board I would also ask the parents, teachers, and residents how the board could be more effective in communicating with the community. I think it is important to ask for help in solving problems or making improvements. From those suggestions we should be capable of finding the ideal solution.
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I would continue to hold the superintendent and his administrators accountable for improving communications with the public. I would also suggest to my fellow board members that we have 3-4 of our public meetings in one of our high schools each year so that people could attend meetings closer to their homes. The downside of this is that the meetings could not be televised and would be recorded on audio tape and on written minutes.
The “revamped Web site” is great if you have a computer and Internet access. The “public relations officer” is also great if s/he can communicate and connect with ALL of our diverse community. I would ensure policy is written and implemented involving parental involvement accordingly to NCLB standards. We live in a diverse community and it is the leadership’s responsibilities to ensure parents and community at large are involved with their schools regardless if they have children or not in the district. It is in everyone’s best interest that our schools are doing well and our students are receiving the quality of education they need and deserve. This is going to take a community effort, but most importantly support from the district leadership/board:
Since all public schools are part of a larger school district, family and community involvement at individual schools depends, in part, on district expectations and support. The job of creating and coordinating a serious, consistent, systemic program of family and community engagement for any district requires senior leadership — preferably at the superintendent level — to establish beyond a doubt that the district is fully committed to family and community engagement.
• Conducting and analyzing parent surveys about school satisfaction.
• Setting a clear standard for what’s expected at schools and offering help to meet the standard.
• Staffing the effort by creating a high-level family involvement position and committing real resources to it.
• Districts hiring teachers or well-trained paraprofessionals to fill parent coordinator positions
• Superintendents and deputies holding principals accountable for strong and measurable outreach to families and community members
• Administration leaders sharing examples of effective family involvement practices with school staff
Communication is an age-old problem prevalent both in the private and public sector. Improving communication within the district does not take a budget, nor will it cost the district money to implement.
Communication takes a commitment from all parties and a methodology to document the issues and concerns of parents, teachers and students. Knowing what the issues and concerns are would allow the district the opportunity to resolve concerns and also hold them accountable to respond in a timely manner. A lot can be learned by documenting this process; people need to know that they are being heard, and if applicable, action to seek resolution is occurring.
The improvement of communication has to be an ongoing process as time goes by. The Web site and public relations officer is of no exception. Apparently the communications are dismal and continue as such. I will, once in office, appoint a communications commission to determine the faults from many perceptions and how to make improvements. Further, I will also participate in training the community to use the Brown Act and Sunshine rules to deliver items to the board agendas for voting. My perception alone to improve communications is not enough. The only way to improve communications is if and only if the community is given the respect and a voice with the authority for action at the district level.
We would need to create a telephone log saying when the parent phoned in and noting the callback time from the district. Currently the district only has an e-mail log –- but not all people are computer literate. Doing this would expand our communication skills. I would also want oversight to make sure this is being done.
The board has done nothing to improve the problems as they do not listen or care about Hayward students or parents. With all the parents who have protested and begged the school district to ask that kind of question is totally absurd. Until the parents are taught how and allowed to put items on the board’s agenda there is no true communication.
I would actually add to the Web site by including a HUSD Excellence! Blog. This would be contributed to by all the schools showcasing accomplishments and broadcasting project and program needs for those who would like to contribute time or give financial support. An added bonus would be writing and input by budding journalists as part of their curriculum. Blogs can be set up for more rapid information addition.
A second thing I would pledge would be to regularly circulate to community events, listening where possible, speaking where appropriate, always encouraging dialogue.
HUSD must provide timely and accurate information to the community. When they fail to do so, that void is filled with rumors and gossip. Perception can quickly override reality when there is a lack of communication.
q While the Web site is a start, it must be accurate and current. We should promote positive programs and events before they occur, not just post pictures after the fact. We need to give the community time to get involved and encourage participation.
q Building Connections and Stability -– Prioritize school staff retention, allowing them to build connections with the families and students. These connections will last a lifetime!
q Community Forums and Workshops –- Community Forums will give participants an opportunity to engage and discuss hot topics with leaders in the district. Workshops addressing all levels of learning and subgroups can help to guide families through the education system and encourage involvement at all levels. We must reach out to our community and ask for their input.
q Access and Visibility — It is important that our board members be accessible and visible at our schools and events. Our leadership must be approachable and open to sharing ideas and listening to the constituents. We must promote our district with PRIDE!
Build coalitions with teachers, parents, residents to encourage their participation in the schools. There is great expertise in the community, reach out. We must be a cohesive team to educate our students.
I would suggest that we institute a bimonthly newsletter to be sent to parents and teachers outlining activities, testing dates, projects, changes in staffing, mandates and policies, and other issues that affect their students.
It is important to work with the press by letters to the editor explaining important issues that affect the schools. Such as best practices in education; why the block schedule is effective; what are the budget issues; explain there is dissatisfaction with NCLB; why many believe that a voluntary preschool is a way to close the achievement gap.