The School Council: Keeping the “Kids” and Parents Engaged

Last night, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2015, the Malden High School Council addressed issues that not only affect MHS, but all of the Malden Public Schools, including back-to-school night, parental involvement, and the standardization of coursework across the elementary and middle schools.

Principal Dana Brown, teachers Paul Degenkolb, Abbey Dick, and Shereen Escovitz, and many parents of high school students were all present.

Next Monday, Nov. 2, 2015, the annual back-to-school night is taking place at MHS. Typically the school’s two cafeterias are divided by subject, for example math and science in one, and English and history in the other. This year, Brown has decided to list every teacher's name outside of the cafeteria which they are located in, an easy solution to an issue a lot of parents have, especially with all of the co-teaching occurring this year.  Even though it is not a “perfect system [with] no perfect solution”, Brown says it is “really about getting the parent or guardian [there].”  

A few of the parents suggested having a time limit for parent-teacher meetings to prevent parents from waiting in line the entire night, but Brown pointed out that “when [teachers] have that captive audience, sometimes that twelve minute conversation could be a lifesaver” for them.  Many students’ parents work late nights, and go days without seeing them. Getting parents actively engaged with their children’s teachers is crucial to a student’s success, and making the process easier for them will only help. Brown added that even though time is a problem at conference nights, it is a “good problem to have.”

Parental involvement was the overall theme of last night’s meeting.  The lack of a parent information center is another problem in our school system.  Escovitz, a MHS math teacher, suggested that the parents “run a workshop for parents, by parents”, whether it’s on how to use x2, or navigate through the high school. A lot of parents “think of the school building as a place they should not go to, … a place they would only go to for a problem.”  This needs to be fixed, and can be fixed by developing an improved information center for parents to resort to with their issues.

Another topic discussed throughout the meeting was the standardization of classes across the elementary and middle schools.  The Salemwood School, for example, offers art, computers, gym, health, music, and Spanish, unlike some of the other schools in the district. Abbey Dick, an English teacher at MHS, commented that even she can see “the differences in writing”, for example, when comparing students from different middle schools.

When students become freshmen, they might not take interest in electives such as Concert Choir, or Studio Art that MHS offers because their middle school did not offer music or art.  This is an concern of many parents, especially when it comes down to taxes and the unequal opportunities their children receive.  It is also a “civil rights issue” for students because they do not receive the same education under the same system.  Brown and the teachers agreed that this comes down to “principal autonomy”, an important factor in selecting the next MHS principal.

The school council serves to make beneficial change for the students and parents not only at MHS, but for the other schools as well.  With Brown, numerous teachers, and parents on the panel, all parties are able to contribute to this change, and help others get involved.  To Brown, keeping the “kids engaged”, and their parents, is the priority.

The next meeting will occur on Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 at 6:30 pm in the MHS library.  All meetings are open to new members, or anyone looking to participate.  Also, in the upcoming weeks there will be a list of the attendees and minutes discussed for each meeting on maldenps.org for reference.

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