SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

September 28, 2012

Salem parents, get involved in your school

I’ll be honest. I am never excited to see a school fundraiser packet arrive home. My mind races through the faces of co-workers, family and friends who were generous last year.

Soon after I distributed last year’s packet, the Salem school district was designated Level 4 and suddenly everyone was talking about schools. School Committee meetings were jampacked, full of concerned parents with tough questions.

The rally for change was impressive. I never thought I’d be sitting with other Salem parents over a drink discussing the “11 Conditions for School Effectiveness.” What I realized during these discussions is that we parents have a critical role to play in the turnaround. The one condition the superintendent cannot “fix” on his own is the condition titled “Family and School Engagement.”

Decades of research show when parents are involved in education, student academic performance improves. Their children have higher grades, test scores and graduation rates; better school attendance; increased motivation and better self-esteem; lower rates of suspension; decreased drug and alcohol use; and fewer instances of violent behavior.

And the more parents who participate in schooling at every level — as advocates, decision-makers, fundraisers and volunteers — the more students achieve.

National Center for Education Statistics surveys show that attending school meetings and events is the leading form of parent participation in schools, followed by school fundraising activities.

There are parent groups in all Salem schools. Though they go by different names, they have the same goal: to support the schools that educate our kids. Salem’s elementary school PTOs raise between a couple thousand per year up to $100,000. With monies raised, these parent groups support curriculum-based field trips, assemblies and community events at school.

Witchcraft Heights’ PTO recently rebuilt the school’s playground. It also provides yearly scholarships for the top four Witchcraft Heights students graduating from Salem High. Carlton’s PTO fully funded the school’s first all-school play last year. Horace Mann and Bates parent groups do an annual walk-a-thon, which not only raises money but builds community and promotes health and wellness.

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