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How Well Do Schools Communicate With Parents?

Local moms discuss a new topic every week.

Recently our Moms Council has discussed topics like getting the kids involved, ,.

This week our moms talked about communication between schools and parents. 

In case you haven't met them yet, let us introduce you to our Moms Council:

  • Abby Rowe: Abby is married and has a two-year-old daughter, Adelaide, and just welcome her newest addition, Evelyn, on May 4! She and her husband are expecting a second child this spring. Abby is the owner of Stroller Strides of Newport, a fitness program that moms can do with their babies. She is also currently serving as President of the Newport/Middletown MOMS Club.
  • Naomi Neville: Naomi is married and has two girls, one who attends Underwood School and one who is in preschool. She is a member of the Newport City Council and also a registered architect in Rhode Island, running a local practice on Thames Street. Naomi has also served as Chair of Newport's Planning Board and was on the Aquidneck Island Planning Commission. She has a bachelor's from Yale University and a master's in Architecture from Columbia University.
  • Lynn Ceglie: Lynne is married and has two children at Rogers High School, a daughter who is a junior and a son who is a sophomore. Lynn works for East Bay Community Action Program as a child outreach screener at Sullivan School. She is also a board member and secretary of the Newport Public Education Foundation.
  • Nikki Vazquez: is married and has two children. She has been involved in a number of local initiatives, including serving as co-founder of the Newport Community Garden and chairperson for Newport in Bloom. She is also the owner of Ladies Who Lunch, a full service personal chef and events management company. Her son attends St. Michael's Country Day School.

This week's question: 

During the Pell School process, some parents voice concerns that there is not enough communication from the school department. Do your children's schools communication too little, too often, or just enough?

Abby: My oldest daughter Adelaide attends school two days a week at Little Friends Farm.  I feel that there is a lot of communication with parents, and it is one of my favorite things about the school.   As parents, we’re asked to complete a very brief questionnaire on a monthly basis to communicate things that are happening with our children at home.   I really like the opportunity to have a formal means of communicating with Adelaide’s teachers about her development, milestones, and challenges.  I think this is a great model for other schools to adopt.  Little Friends also provides my husband and I regular feedback through daily updates, a monthly letter, and annual parent-teacher conferences — yup, parent-teacher conferences for a two year old!  It is great to get so much regular feedback about how Adelaide is developing and getting along with her new friends.  The high level of regular communication with Adelaide’s teachers makes me feel really connected to the school and assures me that she is having a great experience and a lot of fun. 

Lynn: The school/parent communication is quite good at Rogers High School.  We receive Daily Announcement every morning and sometimes subsequent information later in the day.  My problem is not the internal communication, but the external communication.  I believe the lack of communication with the general public is sparse and a broad communications effort is necessary.  The new website, however, is a great step forward.  

The so-called lack of communications about the Pell School is a myth that has been perpetuated by a few.  Let's hope this issue is settled quickly and a 21st Century elementary school is on the horizon.

Naomi: Abigail's answer does a good job of answering the close parent to teacher relationship and I can happily report that Gwendolyn's teacher is very responsive to questions or concerns.  We also are inundated with fliers and emails, keeping us informed about activities and events happening at the school.  Finding the time to read all the fliers is the challenge.

The tougher problem is how can an individual parent be heard at the administration level and are voices heard equally? What is the power of the vocal minority?  Certainly attending School Committee meetings helps but finding that time can be very challenging.  I thought the recent attempt to bring in the Uniform Code of Dress policy highlighted some of the communication issues.  The School Committee made a strong effort to reach out for feedback on the topic and many parents responded to emailed survey; they recorded their preference electronically. But in the end, it was decided by who attended the actual School Committee meeting.

Finally, as Lynn noted, there is the need for communication between the District and the general population.  I would love to see an annual District newsletter mailed out to every Newport resident that could highlight achievements and goals, explain the budget, explain the District's long-term goals, etc.  I think it could be very beneficial.

Lynn:  I understand how proponents of the school uniform policy would feel that a few changed the minds of the school committee; however, implementing a "uniform code of dress" in a public school has its challenges.  I don't want to speak for members of the school committee, but when you combine parental objection, questions of enforcement, and threatened ACLU legal action, you have to wonder if the school committee felt that the issue was doomed.  Strict enforcement of the current dress code seemed to make the most sense in the face of all of the obstacles.    

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