Last Saturday over 600 families from Alief schools attended the fourth annual Family U at the 9th grade center on Cook Rd. Family U is an annual event presented by the district to inform and educate parents on ways to help their children and the role of the schools in the life of families. In years past only about 150 families attended. These 600+ families represent about a 20% participation of families in the district. That’s a pretty spectacular turnout for the district. So, why the increased attendance. Shancellor Terry, the overall coordinator for Family Engagement in Alief attributed the increase to a number of factors. First, the district in 2013-14 has developed a new emphasis on Family Engagement. Even the name has been changed to acknowledge that families come in many different configurations. The district realizes that families include mother, father, grand parents, aunts, uncles and other extended family. That acknowledgement creates a more inclusive sense of family and its relationship with the school.
The second factor was the hiring of Ms. Terry and the recruitment of liaisons for each school. Even though the district was moving in that direction at the end of last year, this was one of the recommendations that TMO presented to the district. The district also changed the job description of the liaison to include more responsibility in the overall implementations of family engagement. Family Liaison’s now have a closer relationship with more parents, thus creating trust and more interest in the schools. This was evident in the recent walk and orientation turnout at Alief Middle School. TMO is encouraged by this change in emphasis and is hopeful that each school can take family engagement to the next level by expanding engagement into the community by developing family cohort groups in apartment projects. It is our hope that these cohort groups will move the family engagement piece more toward a leadership model for parent engagement and with less emphasis on the parent service model.
At the event there were tables set up giving families information on services and programs available in the community. TMO’s table included information on Capital Idea-Houston’s orientations. We also had information on the Affordable Care Act and other TMO activities. Breakout sessions focusing on information helpful to families were well attended and TMO lead organizer Elizabeth Valdez presented a break out session in Spanish to about 50 parents on how to help children be a success in school. One of the items covered was on how to communicate better with a child’s teacher. The next night, as a result of distributing flyers to families, there were about 50 people who attended the Capital Idea-Houston orientation at Santa Maria Virgen in Alief. This was the first such orientation at Santa Maria and will be repeated in the future.
All Alief schools have diligently been working on being family friendly by encouraging staff to be welcoming when parents come to the school. Also, TMO for the last two years has periodically done training for liaisons on how to do “individual meetings” and “house meetings” as steps toward building a relational community. Here are some very specific programs TMO and TMO affiliated churches have done in just the 2013-14 year.
Liestman Elementary– Affordable Care Act orientations; Immigration workshop; OGDOS gardening program; FAME committee and Shared Decision Committee participation
Youens Elementary– parents leadership training; FAME committee and SDC participation
Alief Middle School– FAME committee and SDC participation; helped organize community walk for fifth grade orientation; MDUMC provided six walkers ;participated in orientation session
Holmquist elementary–Mission Bend UMC developed and carried out one time and on going back pack lunches and Family Center programs.
Grace United Church of Christ–hosted and participated in immunization program; held Affordable Care workshop and pressures on families house meetings.
Santa Maria Virgen–Hosted Capital Idea orientation with 50 persons in attendance; hosted Affordable Care Act workshop
Four Square Fellowship–participated in Alief Middle School community walk; developed and participates in ongoing weekly tutoring initiative at a local apartment project.
Best Elementary–successfully participated in gaining over $3000. in school supplies from Wal-Mart for Best children; on going participation in Family Center parent training.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR TMO IN ALIEF?
1. TMO will continue participating in the schools and activities where they are currently involved.
2. Help in developing and implementing apartment cohort groups.
3. Recruit and train volunteers to be apartment cohort mentors.
4. Continue developing relationships with Alief congregations and to link those congregations to a local school.
5. Continue to offer TMO’s leadership training expertise to the district and schools.
Family Engagement is an important ongoing endeavor requiring relation building between the schools and community stakeholders. TMO is proud to be a part of that participation and we look forward to continuing to expand the relationship. In the upcoming year TMO will need to engage more congregations and passionate individuals who believe that public education is worth promoting and who are willing to invest their time and effort to achieve this goal. We must also offer up our prayers and after we have prayed, then act.