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School super stresses parent engagement

By Staff | Aug 6, 2013

The more parents are involved in their child’s education, the more successful the child will be.

That’s the message Lee County School Superintendent Dr. Laura Graham had during her first roundtable discussion Monday at the education building, with a good chunk of it centered around how the parent can become directly involved.

Graham also talked about her expectations for the new school year and objectives she has set.

Graham said the teachers know which parents are engaged with the success of their child in the classroom and that they need to know what they’re doing at all times in and out of school.

“Teachers take note of those who ask about their children’s work and show up at open houses and pay attention,” Graham said. “It’s more than just showing up. It’s knowing about their school, their grades, their friends.”

And if a child is struggling, there are many tools a parent can count on, such as the internet to check grades, and e-mails to contact teachers in areas the child falls short.

But Graham said the parent can get involved in other ways. One of them is to just be with them on their learning journey, homework or not.

“If a child has no homework, ask them to read something from school or encourage them to write something in full sentences,” Graham said.

Among the advantages in having a parent invested in a child’s education, Graham said, is that children simply do better as a way to not disappoint the parent.

“When children have an adult in their world, they do better. They’re accountable and the kids want the parent’s approval,” Graham said. “Kids want to meet that expectation.”

Graham also touched base on some of her initiatives for the coming year, including her top three: Planning for Learning, Increasing Rigor and Focus on Writing.

The latter one is especially important, Graham said, considering the new ways people communicate these days.

“We have made teaching writing more challenging with the advent of texting and tweeting. We need to help them understand the basics,” Graham said.

Graham, who is on a one-year contract, is trying to instill her philosophy with a clock running. She said there was urgency, but more based on the need of the students and not a timeline.

“I’ll work as if I’ve been here a long time. People are buying in and it’s exciting,” Graham said. “The urgency is that we have 85,000 kids counting on us. It’s an awesome responsibility and a privilege and I take it very seriously.”

Graham said when children go back to school Thursday, parents can be rest assured there will be positive changes from the past.

“Parents can expect energy. Teachers learning themselves, children who are unloved will be loved, and an encouragement to be involved,” Graham said. “Teachers don’t take summers off anymore. They’re learning. It’s a commitment.”

As for advice for teachers and new administrators, Graham said it’s to work hard every day and make sure the child works even harder.

“Be realistic in your expectations. I ask a new principal if he’s done the best he can and made it the best day we can,” Graham said. “Then we’ll breathe and do it again the next day. If you do the best you can, regrets are minimal.”