Who are you gonna call?
Q&A with DCSD Parent Liaison, Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown believes that every parent should have the opportunity to ask questions about Douglas County School District (DCSD), provide feedback, gain direct clarification on issues, and be engaged with their child’s education. In fact, her goal is to problem solve for families and lighten the load for very busy parents.
For nearly two years, Brown has served as DCSD’s Parent Liaison. In this position, she is at the center of communications between parents, the community, and District staff. She helps to keep parents up to date on District and community information with Parent University classes held throughout the school year and also helps guide individual School Accountability Committees (SACs) to be more effective.
We had the opportunity to interview Brown to learn more about how parents can rely on her as Parent Liaison.
Q: As Parent Liaison, what do you do for DCSD and families?
A: My role includes interacting with parents and the community, providing resources for parents to get more involved in their child’s education so that their child will be more successful. This includes helping the SACs be constructive, to organizing Parent University, where I can listen to parents’ needs and connect that with what the community would like to offer to parents.
I also help parents with general needs and questions, such as health and wellness resources at school, or who to talk to if parents have a transportation issue, or new assessments. I have to be a one-stop shop for parents who need assistance and be responsive to what they need.
In this District we have so many different learning methods and so many different schools, plus open enrollment. Parents have a lot of questions and I’m somebody that tries to get those questions answered for them.
I can’t do anything for parents, for instance, if they philosophically dislike particular aspects of the District, I cannot change those things. But if there’s something a parent doesn’t understand or a resource that they need to support their child, I can help.
Q: How do you choose the Parent University classes each semester?
A: The class schedule design is based on the feedback I hear from parents, from people in the community, and from organizations in the community.
For example, I recently found out that January is the month with the highest rate of divorce. Knowing this, we can then start identifying what can we do for kids and for parents. Is there a class we can offer to keep kids from the fallout and help educate parents?
Another mechanism of Parent University is to gather feedback. When we have a rollout like the new Elementary Progress Reports, or a special education program phase in, why not put a class together and gather the feedback.
I also plan Parent University classes when I see themes in the broader community. Take, for instance, relationship violence. We have issues in this District with kids regarding relationship violence. It exists throughout the country. Do parents talk to their kids about what that looks like? Do parents even know if that’s happening to their own child? What are the symptoms of that? What do you ask them? How do you even talk to them about that? And if you do find out, what do you do? Those are the things parents need to know about. Whether it’s that, or marijuana use in the age of legalization, whether it’s bullying, and what happens on the Internet, or cellphone apps. There are really disheartening statistics regarding parents knowledge of their kids’ use of smart phones. When we talk about parent engagement, they need to be engaged in that.
Q: How are you supporting schools in your role?
A: I work with administrators at schools and help guide progress with the SACs. We look for constructive work on the SACs. I would love to see more parent involvement because the diversity of opinion and experience makes the SACs constructive. Principals want participation that reflects the population of their school. So they want parents of children in Special Education, of gifted and talented children, and of children receiving free or reduced lunch. They want that diversity of opinion because then they’ll get a diversity of input based on their experiences at the school, such as programs that might be needed. That diversity is healthy and makes for a better school. It’s constructive and solving problems.
Q: What is the difference between the SACs and the District Accountability Committee (DAC)?
A: The DAC is a committee run by parents, community members, and teachers, with administrators who serve as liaisons. What we’re trying to do this year is present some work and feedback to the Board leadership. The DAC is also being really intentional this year with not just being a presentation body, but to really engage parents.
The work that is done in DAC meetings is really important to anybody that functions within the District. A lot of things that are coming down the pike in the District comes through the DAC, such as the new Elementary Progress Reports. But we’d love to increase parent attendance at these meetings. It’s a valid resource for parents where they can provide feedback.
The SACs give their feedback to DAC regarding things like school performance, budget, budget priorities, and assessments. All of the school information collected by the DAC then gets presented to the Board. That’s how it’s supposed to work and what it’s for. It is that resource and input body. But neither the DAC, nor the SAC are governing bodies. They provide input to building leaders and are advisory in nature.
Q: What do you love about your work? What is your fuel?
A: My fuel is problem solving. Every single parent that is out there wants the best for their child. One thing I love about what I do is no matter what a parent’s view of the District or their school is, they still want to work to make things better for their kids and their school. I enjoy the differences of opinion.
I enjoy listening to parents and what their complaints are or what the issues are, or what the positives are and what they love, because in all of those conversations I get the themes and it helps me get the big picture.
I enjoy meeting with the parents. I enjoy seeing the students with the new ways they learn or the parent who is so relieved because they put their child in a different environment and they’re flourishing. That came from being aware that there are different environments and different ways of learning. It’s when that parent has that relief that their child is going to be okay—that’s what I like to see.
We’re all so busy and all of us have our families at home. It’s being able to lighten the load a bit for somebody else. Maybe they don’t know what the IEP (Individualized Education Plan) process is, and they’re frustrated or exhausted. It’s really working with them to figure out a path for them to relieve the burden and give them some breathing room. It’s making those connections for parents and seeing things work. That’s what I love.
Q: What’s one specific moment or story that really inspired you?
A: I came across a parent by chance while out in the community. Her child was on an IEP, he matriculated from that, but his school wasn’t offering the resource class, which is hugely important. I asked her if she talked to the principal and she did, but there wasn’t anything that they could do. I asked her if she talked to the Special Education department at the school. She did, but they were still looking into it. When I saw her again she said things haven’t changed, and she was afraid her son was falling behind and wasn’t enjoying learning anymore. I connected her to Donna Trujillo (Director of Personalized Learning) in the Special Education department. If anyone knows Donna—she works into the night, she’s that committed. She and her team were able to come up with a whole program for this student, who was in high school. He’s doing really well now.
Do you have questions? Do you need assistance? You can click on the Parent Assistance link on the District website.
Call Kathy Brown at 303-387-9505 or email her at Kathy.Brown@dcsdk12.org
Attend an upcoming Parent University Class