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Spanish-Speaking Families Encouraged at Parent Involvement Meeting (October, 2005)

Parents Meet at StaleyAs students get older, parent involvement at Frisco Independent School District can sometimes decline or become a fixture of sports and band booster clubs, but FISD counselors know that students need their parents to be involved in their studies and in their schools long after elementary school. That is why FISD counselors and parent involvement professionals were so delighted at the turnout for the parent involvement meeting held for Spanish-speaking parents at Staley Middle School. These meetings have been at Christie Elementary School, but school officials want to expand into the higher grades.

Christie Elementary is the site of the district’s elementary bilingual (English/Spanish) program, though English as a Second Language programs are at other school sites throughout the district. Some Frisco students do not speak English as a primary language; in all, 48 languages other than English are spoken as the primary language in FISD households.

Frisco Independent School District is reaching out to parents who are not comfortable in a class taught in English by offering parent involvement classes in Spanish with materials written in Spanish. Though these activities are not unusual at the elementary level, this was the first class held at a FISD Middle School. Parents of both elementary and middle school students attended.

Lucy Cantu, parent education coordinator for FISD, and Blanca Olivas, parent liaison for Christie Elementary, led the seminar on the importance of parent involvement, giving parents tips for working with their children and stressing the importance of the parent in the children’s success at school.

At one point in the program Olivas held a fireplace lighter, switched it on and asked the parents to think of themselves as the a parent “who can ignite that internal spark and instill a desire for success in their child.”

The program covered the importance of helping children overcome barriers to success – and specific steps parents can take to help their children become successful. The program stressed personal responsibility, encouragement and goal-setting. Even teens who may act as if they are embarrassed to be seen with their parents want to know that their parents care and have expectations for their children. That was one reason that the organizers of the meeting were so happy to see fathers in attendance.

“It has been a source of celebration for me to see more and more dads participating in general meetings as well as the parenting classes. One of my goals this year is to get more dads to take an active role in their children's education because they do make a difference. Moms love hearing this too, “ Olivas said.

“Parent involvement at Christie has given parents a voice and an opportunity to do more with their children as well as learn more about helping them be more successful. They have told us many times how grateful they are for the information we are providing to them in Spanish. With limited access to internet, reading material in Spanish and other resources, these families are left to do their very best in raising their children in a very competitive world, “ Olivas said.
“We call our parent education classes "La Academia de Padres,” which translates to The Parent Academy. Our general meetings are held in the evening at least twice a year. Families are invited to Christie to receive general information about school or a specific topic such as children's nutrition and the risks for diabetes.”