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The Spirit of the School Accountability Committee is Parent Involvement

The School Accountability Committee. More affectionately known as SAC. So many parents have no idea what this committee does or how they may be able to contribute and volunteer. But in reality, those of us who serve on SACs known they are missing a valuable resource afforded to us.
 
In trying to recruit diverse parents with varying skill sets and opinions, I’ve been working with Darcy Hutchins at the Colorado Department of Education along with other parent liaisons in districts across Colorado.
 
What we discussed is the need for SACs to drift away from being compliance focused and serious to encouraging more fun and lightened discussion that increases participation and interest. It’s what’s missing from SAC meetings.
 
Here’s a challenge: Tell a parent to come with you to an after hours meeting where people throw around education jargon like UIP and GVC and EPR and ESSA and IEP and 504 and STAR and PARCC and MAPS among other things. Have the parent sit in the two hour meeting listening to a discussion they don’t understand and are not sure have any impact to their child. The parents struggled to get there, finding someone to watch the kids and make sure dinner was ready, only to wonder how they contributed. Given the busyness of parents and the multiple tasks they juggle, a SAC meeting can often drop in priority as other responsibilities beckon.
 
Obviously, it’s not THAT bad, but making sure SAC meetings are welcoming and lighthearted can certainly help a parent remove some of the barriers still lingering in the back of their mind as they attend a meeting in which acronyms reign and other people seem to be much more versed in education. It can be an intimidating and overwhelming process.
 
So, let’s first try having a SAC meeting during a time that many parents (not just SAC members) can attend. Maybe offer some child care where the kids can play in the gym or read books in the library. Then, perhaps have a theme to the meeting where people can bring a dish of some sort to share with everybody. Have maybe 10 – 15 minutes of social time before digging into the agenda.
 
Here’s another thought: minutes. We all know we have to take them. But how many parents cannot wait until those minutes get posted? Right? What if a summary, without eduspeak, was provided to parents in the newsletter and on the SAC website with a link they can click for more information. The goal of minutes is to make a record of the discussion. The goal of parent engagement is to motivate parents to get involved enough to participate in the discussion. So, make the webpage inviting and void of eduspeak, providing information that is easy to read and concise, so that parents will want to attend a SAC meeting.
 

Then, consider organizing your SAC into subcommittees. For example, a parent engagement subcommittee, a communications subcommittee, a budget subcommittee, a UIP subcommittee are all valid areas of study and feedback. Recruit those parents whose skill sets lie in these areas and who would otherwise not have the opportunity to participate and add value in important discussions about their child’s school. I hear from parents who work outside of the home that would like the opportunity to be involved in their child’s school. If SACs provide subcommittees, parents are afforded the opportunity to get involved and the school is provided with knowledgeable resources to address areas of need without tasking another school employee.
 
Last, I want to address the term, “compliance.” SACs are required to make good faith efforts. The focus on compliance is not in the spirit of SACs and the effort towards greater parent engagement. Instead, collaboration, support and community are the hallmarks of an effective SAC. Yes, the bylaws are a framework in which to run your SAC, but give caution to making strict bylaw adherence and Robert’s rules the driving force in your meetings. Order is always necessary, as are setting protocols. But when a SAC becomes compliance focused, your school is not reaping the benefit of a diverse, engaged group that can help provide school support and advisement based on numerous perspectives and experiences.
 
As you participate in your School Accountability Committee meetings, keep these promising practices in mind and see how you can help increase parental engagement, empower your school and increase the success of students.
  • Welcome all members
  • Discuss and settle on protocols
  • Set, and stick to clear, precise agendas
  • Provide a specific job description of the roles, responsibilities, time frame, norms  
  • Offer opportunities to work in subcommittees which have specific responsibilities  
  • Spend time team building, getting to know each other, sharing strengths and challenges.  
  • Share inviting and easily understood information in multiple formats - website, tweets, facebook, print, etc.  
  • Review Bylaws
  • Maintain Accurate Information on School Website including Meeting dates, Agendas, Minutes and Contact information  
And as always, if you need help with ideas or implementation, reach out to me at skbrown[at]dcsdk12[dot]org or at 303-387-9505 and I will be happy to help guide you and your SAC.
February 29, 2016 | By SKBrown | Category: parent resources
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