By Lisa Kochanowski
SOUTH BEND — St. Adalbert School is taking an active approach to bringing parents into the school by hosting monthly parent meetings that provide dinner, child care and instruction free to school families. On the third Wednesday of each month families are invited to share dinner together and then let their children stay in the child care area while parents enjoy meetings on a variety of different topics.
“As part of the Notre Dame Magnificat Schools initiative, we want to get the parents more involved with the school,” said Jennifer Dees, who works with the Alliance for Catholic Education’s (ACE) Notre Dame Magnificat School’s program at the University of Notre Dame.
The initial half hour of each of these evenings is devoted to meeting with the Home and School Association (HASA) to discuss events at the school, areas of volunteer needs and ways parents can get involved with HASA.
“We had very little parent participation with HASA; we find it gets smaller attendance as the school year progresses,” said Laurie Tomaszewski the HASA co-president and mother of a sixth grader. “We are finding the numbers to be steadier with this program.”
St. Adalbert Principal Marianne Bachman adds, “When I came to this school I was saddened at the lack of parent involvement with HASA. I have seen this option to help out a great deal with involvement.”
In November parents were divided into grade levels and given information and aids on ways of helping their child become a successful student. The January presentation offered representatives from the library, who explained the library system, discussed free programs at the library and offered a chance to sign up for a library card if needed. In February, families will have the chance to work with tax professionals on tax preparation.
“We talked about what they (the children) were doing in the classroom and what we should be doing with the kids at home,” said parent Timothy Hudak about his first meeting. “Reading to the kids as early as possible is so important. We talked about math tracks and the importance of using idle time to work with your kids.”
Hudak is not only a parent but St. Adalbert alum and works in the maintenance department. He feels this program is a great way to bring parents to the school and brings the community together as a whole. “I’m a firm believer that being involved in a child’s education is important. These children need to feel connected to the school. Teachers aren’t just teachers, but part of the community and family.”
Teacher Jenni Crain said that at the end of the evening they pass out age-appropriate goodie bags to the children that contain a variety of different things. Parent-teacher conferences were held a week after this meeting and Crain enjoyed the chance to tell parents at their conferences that if a child was struggling with vocabulary that all they had to do was take out the flash cards the kids got at the parent meeting and practice those every night.
“A lot of classroom influence came with the topics discussed” at the November meeting said Crain. “It was neat to see a lot of new families and not just the usual suspects.”
Jennifer Pensado, the after-school care coordinator and mother of a fourth grader, was very impressed with the turnout and the project. “It’s important for children to see their parents be involved with the school. I think it’s the best thing I can do for my kids.”
“For me, once a month to go to school to find out what’s going on is the least I can do,” said Tomaszewski. “One day a month is very simple to make.”
“Any way we can help parents be more successful at their job then I think we should do that,” said Dees.
“Before we got started we had a meeting with Marianne Bachman, the principal, and brainstormed a bunch of topics that we wanted to talk about. We talked about resources in the area that we could use,” said Dees. “The neat thing is we had so many great ideas.”
Dees said future topics include computer/internet safety, tax help and nutrition.
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