Tag Archives: School Volunteers Policy #1250

Positive Problem Solving by Alice Wellborn

This article from licensed school psychologist Alice Wellborn discusses how parents can focus on problem-solving and cooperation when there is an issue at school.  She shares her information on both her own facebook page No More Parents Left Behind and as part of the flylady.net distribution list.

Some of the suggestions might be difficult or require some pre-planning to implement in Kingston (most Kingston schools do not allow parents to eat lunch regularly with their students and be sure to fill out a volunteer application form far enough in advance to allow time for any necessary reference checks if you want to serve as a volunteer) but the principles are applicable in all schools.

Positive Problem Solving
By: Alice Wellborn
mom.jpgWhat are some steps you can take to be an effective, positive presence for your child in school? How can you focus on problem-solving and cooperation when there are issues at school?The first step is to be a “Partner in Learning” at your child’s school. Here are some ideas:

-Attend all open house events.  Meet and greet!  Know and be known!

-Join the PTA.  You don’t have to be an officer, but you need to meet other parents, support the school, and stay in the loop.

-Learn the names of all the school staff who work with your child, and make sure they know your name.

-Go to all parent/teacher conferences, on time and prepared with questions, concerns, and positive comments.

-Attend school programs, especially if your child is participating.  Support all the children in your community!

-Eat lunch at school with your elementary school-age child as often as you can.  Kids love this, and teachers appreciate it.

-Provide all the supplies, materials, and information the teacher needs to keep your child safe and comfortable at school.  This includes medications, school supplies, a change of clothes, and contact information.  Keep everything stocked and updated.

-Send a positive note to school at least two or three times a year, with a compliment or a thank you.  You might thank the teacher, and you might thank the bus driver or a lunch lady.  It takes a village…..

-Volunteer however you can.  No matter what your circumstances are, there is a volunteer opportunity for you – even if just once a year for field day or the school festival.  Volunteering is a comfortable, natural way to meet teachers and find out what’s going on with your child in school.

Remember – parents who have a positive voice in the school are much more likely to be listened to when they have a concern, and parents who are involved in the school community have more opportunities for good communication with teachers and administrators.

The second step is to focus on positive solutions to problems at school.  Remember – you are trying to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  You are trying to show your child how to effectively problem-solve and get results.  Here are some big ideas about solving problems in school:

-Listening is a sign of respect.  You need to listen to teachers and administrators, and they need to listen to you.  Both viewpoints help your child be successful, so be open-minded – it’s a two-way street.

-Arguing, excusing, and blaming don’t help your child at all in the long run.  There is no place for anger or rudeness on either side.  In fact, there shouldn’t be any sides – everyone should be looking out for the child.

-Act like everyone at the school wants the best for your child and it’s more likely to happen. Most people try to live up to expectations (it’s embarrassing not to), and if you expect the best you just may get it.  Just remember that your idea of “best” and the school folks’ idea of “best” may not be the same.  If so, it’s time for everyone to listen and respect the other viewpoint.

-The teacher isn’t the only person at school who you can call to ask questions and get some help.  Guidance counselors, school social workers, school psychologists, and school nurses are there to support students and their families.

-Follow the chain of command if you have questions or concerns, but nobody at school will pay attention to you.  Teachers are in charge of their classroom, principals are in charge of their school, the superintendent of schools is in charge of the whole school system, and the school board is responsible for everyone and everything.  The school board is usually an elected body, and they answer to you as a citizen of your community.  Start at the classroom level and work your way up.  It’s always best to start with the person most involved with the problem (usually the teacher), but you can go as far up the chain of command as necessary to find solutions for your child.

The third step is to learn how to set-up effective, businesslike parent/teacher conferences that focus on actions and results rather than anger and frustration.  No one likes to be caught off-guard – that just gets everyone off on the wrong foot.  Here are the basic guidelines:

-The day and time for the appointment are set up ahead of time.  Confirm with a note if there’s enough time.

-Everyone should know in advance why you’re meeting and who will be there.

-Bring a family member or friend to the conference with you if you need support.

-Write down questions and concerns before the meeting if you can.  Take notes during the meeting.  It helps you remember, and it looks like you know what you’re doing.

-Focus on positive solutions.  You’re not meeting together to get mad, blame others, or make excuses.  You’re meeting to figure out a plan to help your child.

-Make a plan to follow-up on the ideas and decisions – know who is going to do what, what the time frame is, and when the group will get back together to check on progress.

Challenge
Look at the first step, and pick one way in which you are going to be a Partner in Learning in your child’s school.  Pick something that’s easy, and looks like fun!  Commit to doing it before the end of January.
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This article is excerpted from The Savvy Parent’s Guide to Public School. Click here to order.

The Savvy Parent’s Guide to Public School is an invaluable resource for parents of school-age children.  Alice Wellborn offers a practical guide to help parents navigate the frustrating world of public education.  Designed to empower parents to work effectively with teachers and school administrators, the book provides parents with the information and tools they need to become strong partners in their child’s school community.

Alice Wellborn, M.A. has been a licensed school psychologist for over 35 years (and the mother of three sons for almost 30 years!)  She received the NC School Psychology Association Presidential Award of Honor in 2002 for her advocacy on behalf of children.  Alice is the education specialist at FlyLady, and a bi-monthly columnist at her local newspaper on topics related to public school.  Her weekly blog is featured at both flylady.net and schoolsavvyparents.com. Alice’s Facebook page , No More Parents Left Behind, features questions and comments about education and parenting.  Alice believes that strong parent/teacher partnerships are a vital part of effective public education.

 

I have not read the book The Savvy Parent’s Guide to Public School that this article is taken from but based on another e-book that I own from Alice Wellborn, I expect that The Savvy Parent’s Guide will be equally valuable in providing “parents with the information and tools they need to become strong partners in their child’s school community.”

Board of Ed meeting tomorrow June 4, 2014 with report/parent concerns from May 21 meeting

The Kingston Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow June 4, 2014 at Kingston High School in the auditorium.

  • 5:45pm – public hearing for Kingston High School Jefferson Code
  • 6pm – district recognition/retirement & tenure ceremony followed by executive session
  • 7pm – public comment normally starts around 7pm (when executive session ends)

The superintendent’s report includes:  an update on the high school capital project, end-of-year activities and a middle school schedule update.

Other items of note on the agenda:

  • A classroom at GW is being leased to BOCES for next school year and Bailey is being leased to BOCES for the summer.
  • Subdivision of Sophie Finn property (from Kingston High School) so it can be sold.  Approval of sale of Sophie Finn property.
  • Some additional school volunteers are listed for approval by the board of education.
  • Adoption of Veteran’s Tax Exemption/Gold Star Parents.

 

I intended to distribute the following summary from the last board meeting last week but got distracted by a variety of education-related items.  I am including it for your reference since there were several items that I thought might be of interest to parents and very little of the information ended up in the newspaper.

Please pay particular attention to the concerns regarding Project Global and the move of 5th grade band/chorus/orchestra out of the regular school day and into the middle school club/activity period which is outside of what most parents/students consider to be the ‘regular school day’.

***

Jolyn’s summary from the May 21, 2014 Kingston Board of Education meeting

Attendance was fairly low at the first Board of Education meeting after the school budget/Board of Education vote. with about 20 people in attendance.

During public comment, I invited the Board of Education members, on behalf of Kingston Action for Education, to join local parents for Common Sense Education Lobby Day in Albany on June 17, 2014.

Art teacher for Project Global at Kingston High School, Amy VanKleeck, spoke about how thoroughly convinced the students, parents and teachers involved in Project Global are of the benefits of the program.  However “the life of the program is dependent upon you (the board) taking an interest in what we are dong”.  The students and the teachers are afraid again this year that the program will be displaced from the Carnegie Library next year.  The location is a vital part of the program.

2nd century project – steering committee met on May 21.  Will report to Master Plan Facilities committee on June 4.  All of the drawings and plans will be ready to share with the board and the community by the end of June.  Architects have been asked to provide a cost estimate for adding a/c to KHS auditorium.

Real estate updates:  Contracts have been signed for the sale of Zena and Tillson schools, closing dates will be scheduled.  Ulster county legislator has approved the sale of Sophie Finn.

Administrative staff searches:  All new positions including KHS principal were posted with closing date of May 23.  Dr. Padalino, Mr. Voerg and Mr. Olsen were going to go through applications upon closing.  KHS staff will be asked for input regarding KHS principal selection.  Job descriptions for the new administrative staff positions have still not been written.

Middle school schedule update:  8th grade advanced classes will be kept for next year, technology will be moved back to 8th grade, adding a business class in 8th grade to deal with too many study halls, enrichment/reteach periods being changed to allow teachers to figure out how to best provide (not separate period), will still have block scheduling next year – looking at reducing length of long blocks, 5th grade band/orchestra/chorus will be in 9th period

School lunch price will be increased for next year.

Resolution passed to put Cioni building up for sale.

Many school volunteers approved by the board.  One group of names was in the agenda and another group of names was “walked” into the meeting to be approved for upcoming field trips.

Coffee & Conversation is over until September.  Mrs. Bowers noted that no one has attended the last 2 events she hosted although she then clarified that one parent who did not yet have school-age children attended one event and had a lot of questions about education in Kingston.

Parent Highlights for March 19, 2014 Kingston Board of Education meeting

Lots of interest for parents on the agenda for the Kingston Board of Education meeting this Wednesday March 19, 2014.  The meeting will be held at John F. Kennedy Elementary School.

5:00pm – 6:00pm Public Hearing on the Veterans Tax Exemption

6:00pm Video welcome by John F. Kennedy Principal Dr. Perez who will be out of town.  After the video, the BOE will go into executive session.

7:00pm Expected return to public session and Public Comment

Topics of Note:

  • Dr. Chuck Khoury, Ulster BOCES, speaking about PTECH – Pathways in Technology Early College High Schools Program; here is an article from January about the PTECH program
  • JFK Playground donation
  • 2014-2015 budget update including announcement of a public hearing on the budget on May 7, 2014 at 5:30pm (note that the budget will have already been voted on by the BOE so it is too late to have any impact on the content of the budget at this time), voting locations (listed on the district website), due date of petitions for those who wish to run for the Board of Education – 5pm April 30, 2014, and information about registering to vote in the May 20 election/budget vote and absentee ballots
  • Two recalled teachers Lori Demercurio and Anthony Fabiano (teachers who had lost their jobs and now are getting their jobs back) – resolution P84
  • Amendments and authorizations to change who acts on behalf of the board/district for duties previously performed by Sandy Miller, Assistant Superintendent for Student Services, and Marystephanie Corsones, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum & Instruction.  John Voerg, Assistant Supterintendent for Personnel & Administration, will be responsible for Special Education related areas/contracts previously covered by Sandy Miller (resolutions R01 and R08 revised).  Beth Bonville will take MaryStephanie Corsones’ place as the Title IX Coordinator, Title VII Coordinator and Title VI Civil Rights Act Investigator (resolution R01 revised).  Allen Olsen, Assistant Superintendent for Business & Operations, will be the responsible party for signing contracts for health services for students in non-public schools through the end of this school year (resolution R09 revised).  Sandy Miller was previously responsible for this authorization.
  • Proposed calendar for 2014-2015 school year:  1st day of school for students is Sept 3, 2014; Thanksgiving recess Nov 26-28; Winter recess Dec 24, 2014-Jan 2, 2015; President’s Weekend Feb 13-16, 2015; Spring recess March 30-April 6, 2015; last day of school June 25, 2015; assorted other individual days off/supt conference days available in the agenda for viewing
  • BOE vote on School Volunteers Policy #1250 – the only change from the version of the policy presented at the 2/19/14 and 3/5/14 BOE meetings is a statement that fingerprinting will be paid for by the district.  It appears that the BOE policy committee is not recommending any other changes in response to feedback received from the community regarding the School Volunteers policy.  See here for past discussion.

Parent Highlights for 3/4/14 Kingston Board Of Education Meeting

The Kingston Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow March 4, 2014 at the Cioni Building on Crown Street.

Several items on the agenda caught my eye as being of particular note to parents.

The second reading of the School Volunteer Policy #1250 is occurring.  Changes previously discussed here and here.  The changes to the School Volunteer Policy are scheduled to be approved at the BOE meeting on 3/19/14.

The Superintendent’s Report includes the 2nd Century Project (the high school capital project) and the quarterly update on Board/Superintendent Goals (curriculum, facilities, budget, student achievement and transitions/redistricting). The November update on Board/Superintendent Goals had a lot of details about Common Core implementation, middle school changes, the KHS Scholar’s Academy and other topics that parents are often talking about so I recommend parents attend for this update if at all possible.

The September 18, 2013 BOE meeting minutes contain the Superintendent Goals that are being reported on at the meeting tomorrow.

Are there other topics that you think parents should particularly note as you read through the agenda?

School Volunteers Proposed Policy Changes and Possible Impact to Parents

Do you know that the Kingston City School Board of Education is recommending several changes to the School Volunteers policy (Policy #1250)?  The policy begins:

The Board of Education recognizes that the use of volunteers strengthens school/community relations through positive participation, builds an understanding of school programs among interested citizens, and can assist District employees in providing more individualized and enriched opportunities in instruction. The Board encourages volunteers from all backgrounds and age groups who are willing to share their time, training, experience or personal characteristics to benefit the students of the District.

From the opening paragraph, it is clear that the purpose of the policy is to encourage volunteers within the school.  The policy explains both what the school personnel and the school volunteer must do when someone wishes to become a school volunteer.  However I am concerned that the proposed policy changes, while well-meaning to increase the safety of our students, may adversely impact parent and community members who volunteer or wish to begin volunteering in the schools of our District and may actually cause the school district to have fewer volunteers in our schools.

What are the proposed changes to the School Volunteers policy ?

  • Volunteers are classified in one of 3 tiers.
  • Tier 1 volunteers will include most parent group (PTO/PTA) volunteers who volunteer occasionally and have limited contact with students (for example field day volunteers or fundraising volunteers).  No volunteer application is required so district personnel will not be required to perform any screening of these volunteers.
  • Tier 2 volunteers include parents/community members who volunteer regularly in the classroom (for example classroom reading, room parent) and also field trip chaperons.  Tier 2 volunteers must complete a Volunteer Application Form which requires 2 non-family references and disclosure of any criminal convictions.  The supervising personnel must contact both references and the Board of Education must approve the volunteer. 
  • Tier 3 volunteers include volunteers who assist regularly with programs outside school hours (extra-curricular and co-curricular clubs/activities and athletics).  Tier 3 volunteers must complete the same requirements as Tier 2 volunteers.  In addition Tier 3 volunteers must be fingerprinted (at district expense) and approved by the New York State Education Department.
  • A note is added to the Volunteer Agreement and Expectations (see Volunteer Application Form link above) that the volunteer ‘will not use tobacco and alcohol when volunteering’ so chaperons know they may not smoke or consume alcohol on field trips even if they are in a location where such is allowed for those of legal age.

How could these changes, which seem reasonable on first glance, possibly reduce the number of volunteers in the school?

More volunteers are going to have to complete volunteer applications (field trip chaperons in particular) and potentially be fingerprinted.  A parent reported at the February 19, 2014 BOE meeting that 90 band parent volunteers could potentially have to be fingerprinted due to their involvement in the band marching season.  Several questions/concerns come to my mind:

  • Will supervising personnel (building principals) have adequate time to process all applications for field trip chaperons or will fewer parents be allowed to serve as chaperons due to application work load?
  • What if there is not a BOE meeting between the time that the notice for a field trip goes out and the date of the field trip?  Parents who have not previously completed a volunteer application form for some other reason will not be able to serve as chaperons so there will be fewer volunteers interacting with the school community.
  • Will some parents who simply want to go on the class fieldtrip to UPAC with their child feel uncomfortable applying if they have had a criminal conviction in the past?  Is shoplifting when you were a teenager okay but DWI is not?  Does it matter how long ago the conviction was?  Do traffic violations count?  Would some applicants decide to just not bother volunteering rather than to find out whether they would still qualify even with a conviction history?  In fact how/who will determine what level of conviction would disqualify someone from being a volunteer?
  • Will volunteer applications be treated the same from building to building so all parents/community members are given equal opportunity to volunteer?
  • If conviction information is revealed, what will knowledge of this sort of personal information potentially have on the relationship between the principal and the parent?
  • We are totally relying on the applicant being honest in reporting criminal convictions at Tier 2 since fingerprinting is not required so if someone has committed a ‘serious’ offense (child abuse for example), are they really going to report it?

What should you do if you have questions or concerns about the proposed changes to the School Volunteers Policy #1250?

The Kingston Board of Education responded to parents’ request to delay approval of the proposed policy changes and sent Policy #1250 back to the BOE Policy committee which will meet on Friday March 7, 2014 9:00am.  Now parents/community members need to present any concerns to the BOE so they may be addressed and incorporated into effective changes for the School Volunteers Policy.

  1. The District Wide Parents’ Council (DWPC) VOLUNTEER POLICY SURVEY is a completely anonymous, 9 question, mostly multiple choice survey that will give you the opportunity to give feedback on the proposed policy changes.  I encourage everyone to participate in this survey before March 6, 2014.
  2. If you are comfortable giving individual voice to your concerns, write a letter to the Kingston Board of Education expressing your concerns immediately.  DWPC has drafted a  School Volunteers Policy 1250 Sample Letter (click or see letter below) that can be copied and sent by you to the Board of Education in its entirety or edited by you to address your specific concerns with the proposed changes. This is like letters that action groups often distribute for you to contact your local elected officials.
  3. Join with other parents in expressing your concerns by attending the DWPC meeting on Thursday March 6, 2014 9:30-11:30am or if you can not attend, contact your DWPC school representative through your school PTA/PTO and ask your DWPC rep to bring your concerns to the DWPC meeting.  Also speak with other parents at your PTA/PTO meeting so they know about the proposed policy changes.
  4. Attend the BOE Coffee & Conversation on March 12, 2014 so the Board of Education members in attendance can take your concerns back to the BOE meeting on March 19, 2014
  5. Attend the Board of Education meetings on March 5 or March 19 and share your concerns during Public Comment.  Note that it would be best to not wait until March 19 to express your concerns as that will give the board very little time to consider your concerns since the vote for approval of the policy is scheduled for the March 19 meeting.

The Daily Freeman reported initial concerns regarding the proposed policy changes right after they were announced at the February 19, 2014 BOE meeting.

Disclaimer:  All opinions expressed in this post are the personal opinions of myself, Jolyn Safron, and have not been endorsed or approved by the parent groups of which I am a part unless explicitly stated.

**[DWPC Sample Letter]

[Please remove parenthesized italic print before sending and please add a closing of your choice]

Dear Board Of Education Member,

[You may specifically address them by name- see the district website under the BOARD OF EDUCATION headline for member information]

It has come to my attention that Board Policy 1250, the School Volunteers Policy is currently under review and that certain changes to the policy have been drafted. I thank you for the concern you are showing for the safety of all students in our District, however I do have several concerns that I would like you to consider:

[You may use these bullets as listed, delete ones you do not agree with or add your own concerns]

  • When you list SUPERVISING ADMISTRATOR, who are you referring to?
  • Will there be consistency in implementation of this policy in ALL the Buildings of the KCSD?
  • How are teachers/personnel supposed to watch both Students and Volunteers? Is that not just adding to their work load instead of relieving some of the burden – the purpose of soliciting volunteer help?
  • Some of the Tier Example descriptions appear to overlap each other, some clarity may be needed.
  • Timing: If these applications need to be reviewed by administration, possibly the BOE and clearance from the state may be necessary, how far in advance must parents apply for activities that may not even be posted.
  • Cost: What are the costs involved to process the applications? Will the cost of fingerprinting be covered by the person applying or the School District?
  • Number of Current School Volunteers: How many volunteers does this district rely on currently? Have they all filed an application? If not, Will they feel comfortable doing so?
  • New Volunteers: How will these requirements be conveyed to the public? Most parents are used to just “volunteering” to go on a Field trip or helping out in the classroom.
  • Should volunteer training be provided?

[Some closing should be made to either the email or written/typed letter. You may wish to close with one of these additional comments.]

Thank you fo reading my concerns and I hope your comments during any Board deliberations will reflect them.

[or]

I invite you to contact me at ___________ so that we can discuss these concerns further.

Sincerely,

**[End of DWPC Sample Letter]

Parent Highlights for 2/19/14 Kingston Board Of Education Meeting

If the weather cooperates, the Kingston Board of Education will be meeting tomorrow February 19, 2014 at Robert Graves Elementary School.   UPDATE 2/19/14 3pm District clerk confirms BOE meeting is still being held even though after school activities are canceled.  Quarterly update on Board/Superintendent Goals moved to 3/5/14.

I would like to draw your attention to several items on the agenda that I think are of particular note to parents.

The first reading of changes to the School Volunteer Policy #1250 is on the agenda. Changes of particular note to parents include requirements for room parents, classroom readers and field trip chaperons (tier 2 volunteers).

The Superintendent’s Report includes the 2nd Century Project (the high school capital project) and the quarterly update on Board/Superintendent Goals (curriculum, facilities, budget, student achievement and transitions/redistricting). The November update on Board/Superintendent Goals had a lot of details about Common Core implementation, middle school changes, the KHS Scholar’s Academy and other topics that parents are often talking about so I recommend parents attend for this update if at all possible.

The meeting agenda is posted on the school district website.  Pages 8 and 9 contain the updated School Volunteer Policy #1250.

The September 18, 2013 BOE meeting minutes contain the Superintendent Goals that are being reported on at the meeting tomorrow.

Are there other topics that you think parents should particularly note as you read through the agenda?