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Beaverton schools focus on boosting community partnerships

A team charged with exploring the successes and shortcomings of the Beaverton School District's volunteerism and community engagement practices has issued new recommendations and goals for the School Board's consideration.

The board directed the Volunteerism and Engagement Task Force in January to examine existing practices and make suggestions to 'enhance and deepen engagement in the District' over the next three to five years, according to the 2011-2015 Volunteerism Engagement Plan report.

The task force recommended the district adopt:

  • The National Standards on Family-School Partnerships to 'strengthen and guide parent, family and community engagement' in the schools and district;
  • The (Dr. Joyce L.) Epstein Framework of Engagement as a comprehensive model to address parent, family and community engagement - the framework aligns with the National Standards outline;
  • An interdepartmental team, including the Teaching and Learning and the Community Involvement department staffs, to focus on implementation, funding options, engaging interns and volunteers, and as budgets improve, securing dedicated funding based on a per-school allocation.
  • The National Standards model focuses on welcoming all families into the school community; effective communication and collaboration between families and school staff regarding student learning; and empowering families to advocate for their own and other children to ensure fair treatment and access to learning opportunities.

    Designed by Joyce L. Epstein, director of the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships, the Epstein Framework is based on six types of parent involvement, including:

  • Supportive home environments;
  • Effective school-to-home and home-to-school communications;
  • Parent volunteering efforts;
  • Ideas on helping students with homework and other curriculum-related activities;
  • Involving parents in decision making and developing parent leaders; and
  • Identifying and integrating community resources and services to strengthen school programs, student learning and development.
  • Maureen Wheeler, the district's communication officer and head of the volunteerism task force, said she's pleased with the roadmap the group put together.

    'We want to have National Standards in our district,' she said. 'We've got some really good partnerships out there, so we know we're on the right track.'

    Board member Mary VanderWeele praised Wheeler's team for the volunteerism plan.

    'There's a lot of energy in this group,' VanderWeele said. 'Maureen did an excellent job. We learned a lot of great things that are happening in our district.'

    Superintendent Jerry Colanna said the plan's National Standards emphasis will enhance parental involvement in students' education as well as open up grant opportunities.

    'Knowing there's leverage behind (parent-involved) grassroots efforts can really make a change,' he said. 'I think this is one of the best pieces of work I've seen come out of the district in the eight years I've been here. It's going to make a big difference.'

    For information on the volunteerism task force, visit www.beaverton.k12.or.us .