Communication a top issue during Kannapolis City school system's Kitchen Table Forums

  • Posted: Monday, October 8, 2012 12:01 a.m.
    UPDATED: Monday, October 8, 2012 7:36 p.m.

KANNAPOLIS - Fifty-five people turned out last month during the Kannapolis City school system's first kitchen table forums, an initiative in which parents and community members offered feedback about how to drive students success.
District spokeswoman Ellen Boyd shared the responses compiled during the event at Monday's Board of Education meeting.
"When you're doing something like this what you want to look for is the things that come up table after table, site after site," she said.
Communication was a top issue.
Boyd said parents are a fan of the district's automated Connect Ed system, which can be used by school officials to make calls home for reminders about upcoming events or distribute important information.
"They really felt Connect Ed is efficient," she said. "They like it and feel we could use it even more than we already do."
Participants also feel parent-teacher communication is critical.
"There was a common sentiment that teacher communication is good at the elementary level, but falls off at higher levels," Boyd said. "Parents sometimes feel they have to initiate contact after elementary school and occasionally are unaware of what is happening at school and with their child."
Boyd said that lack of such communication can impact family involvement and transitions from school to school.
The forums also found that parents don't always feel welcome when they come to Kannapolis schools.
"A welcoming environment is extremely important," Boyd said. "They also want a real person answering phones."
Participants pointed out that open houses should be at more convenient times like evenings or weekends instead of during the day.
Boyd said parents suggested having an additional open house for students in transition grades at the end of the previous year when schools look more normal and they can get a feel for the new environment.
During the forums, parents suggested creating sharing groups for parents and student.
"They said 'Why don't you let us do some of the training, let us talk to parents and tell them about experience so they will feel more comfortable,'" Boyd said. "The same goes for students ญญ- students show other students the ropes at those transition grades."
Parents also suggested having more resources for Hispanic families who speak primarily Spanish. That includes more materials in Spanish and an interpreter on hand for parent-teacher conferences.
Boyd said principals have already seen the results of the forums and the information will be available on the district's website at www.kannapolis.k12.nc.us for anyone who would like to review it.
"The next step is to work on implementing ideas from kitchen table forums," she said.
Boyd said some of the first changes will include developing buddy programs at transition grades, creating common forums in Spanish and launching sharing groups for parents and students to talk about their experiences together.
The district will also continue to gather feedback by getting input from the parent council and conducting additional parent surveys.
"We'll repair the kitchen table forums next year," Boyd said.
School board member Todd Adams said the forums were a good way to reach out to parents.
"I think it was great," he said. "We all would have hoped to have more folks at the site we were at, but I think from what we heard it will build."
Contact reporter Sarah Campbell at 704-797-7683.
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