Portland's Celebration of Families Seen as Relationship Builder
For the past several years, the Portland Chapter of Parents for Public Schools has held a daylong event called The Parent Leadership Conference (PLC), which drew up to 300 attendees every year. With the economic downturn, the grant dollars we needed to make this event happen became harder to get. Along with that, it took a tremendous amount of effort from our small volunteer board. Most importantly, though, with one huge event, it became apparent that we weren’t creating ongoing relationships with our attendees and our Chapter was suffering for lack of active members. So, we decided to step back and concentrate on some small school-wide events before trying another huge PLC.
We began last year with the first “Celebration of Families Supporting Students” at a K-8 school within Portland Public School District. We were excited to plan and host the event, partnering with the SUN School program, the parent group, and school staff. We facilitated discussions with families about their strategies to keep kids on track at school. We also discussed methods for improving communication with teachers and administrators. We used interpreters to ensure that non-English families speaking various languages were included. These discussions included le languages with the help of interpreters.
This year, we found an opportunity to partner with Earl Boyles Elementary in the David Douglas District, a school with ties to the Children’s Institute, in presenting a parent engagement meeting that focuses on the path to high school graduation and entry into college. Earl Boyles is the school where the Children’s Institute is launching its Early Works pilot program.
Because Earl Boyles is a school that receives funding through Title 1, it is mandated to offer two programs a year to support family engagement. Our events are helping schools fulfill those requirements in a meaningful way.
With the combined group consisting of The Children’s Institute, SUN, PPS of Portland, Earl Boyles administrators, counselors, teachers and staff, and the help of the David Douglas school district, we believe that we were able to provide a highly effective presentation for the parents of the school, along with building chapter membership and raising our profile with all Portland school districts.
PPS of Portland’s role in this event was to contact the school with the knowledge that we can help provide an event of this type, help with the overall layout and planning of the event, and to work with the event team on details of individual aspects of the event. PPS of Portland also helps to coordinate childcare and a meal for the families at such events.
We believe that holding small events will not only increase our active membership, but it will help us develop real working relationships in Portland school districts into which we are expanding. This will allow us to bring on new board members that are more representative of the districts surrounding Portland Public Schools. We’re excited for the opportunity to make Parents for Public Schools of Portland stronger, more sustainable, and ready to take on another large scale Parent Leadership Conference in the not-too-distant future.