Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Abell Wants to Rework the Rules for Parent Visits

That's the headline on today's front page of the Maryland Independent -

Charles County school board member Jennifer S. Abell wants to change the school system's parent visitation rules, which she considers "too restrictive."The current rules allow parents or guardians to visit by invitation, or they can schedule up to two 45-minute visitations during each grading period.

Not a bad article but this was hot news months ago. Hasn't been lately. Is the Indy trying to stir the pot, again? However, since it has been stirred it will be coming up and the new Board NEEDS public input on this. Not just criticism or kudos. Suggestions of actual do-able changes! Any ideas?


Anonymous said...

If parents are allowed to just roam around the building when ever they want to, what about the safety of the other students and the teachers?

Anonymous said...

Parents should be allowed to visit their child's school/classroom at any given time...however, they must always have to sign in at the front office before entering any classroom or hallway! (as is the case) The office log should display the parent or visitor's intentions of how long their stay will be and what class they are visiting. If not more important, the "visitor" should be assigned and wear a lanyard/badge,(or something of this nature) stating not only their name but also the classroom they are visiting, along with a time frame (making the information very clear for all to see)! The staff must then pay close attention and send anyone in violation of these rules back to the office, or report them immediately for removal of the classroom/building, if necessary. Keep in mind, these are just thoughts...
Elementary visits should be allowed at anytime!! Middle and high school levels should maybe require a one hour advance notice due to different class schedules each day.

Chris Ripley said...

My frustration has been at the high school level. You need to go through the guidance office to set up an appointment with a teacher. It's a very cumbersome and bureacratic procedure that adds sometimes weeks to the time to set up an appointment. You also have to depend on the availability of the guidance councilor to meet with the teacher. Some teachers will email and talk to you without this process and others just pass you on to the guidance office. There needs to be some streamlining to this process.

Anonymous said...

My belief is the school and home should work together for the good of the children. We should be partners.
What that said:
I agree with anonymous to a point I did not agree with the hour notice for middle or high school.

Your question is If parents are allowed to just roam around the building whenever they want to, what about the safety of the other students and teachers?

Keep in mind that most parents did not roam around the school unless they are lost or a volunteer.
As a parent when I am going to visit my child's class I visit my child's class and the only time I roam the building is when my child's class goes to specials (p.e.,music etc.)and I am shadowing my child.

Please note that many parents work so the only time they can come is when they get off from their jobs.
Most times (working) parents visit the school/class for a reason. It is usually from time to time.

If your concern is parents roaming the building or for the safely of the students and teachers what about the volunteers who are parents or community persons. Maybe the board needs to consider doing what Prince George's County Public School has done background checks for volunteers.

If the parent is aggressive then the principal should use his/her judgment on dealing with that parent.

True story I was picking up my daughter(Pre-K) from the bus stop around 12noon and the Holy Spirit told me to go to the school and check on my son. I did not listen to the Holy Spirit(because I was thinking about the policy) and when I got home and fed my daughter her lunch and sit down the telephone rang and it was the school letting me know that my son was in the office because he got in trouble. If I had the freedom to go to the school as I was lead I believe my son would not gotten in trouble because I would have been there. Before this policy in this county as well as other schools my son attended I was able to catch him off guard. Because I had to freedom to come and go. It seemed to make a difference in his education because he was not aware when I was coming.

The teachers at my children school has given me and open door policy.

Heather Brooks said...

When my daughter was attending Thomas Stone she was not getting all of her work done for various reasons. To figure out the real issue I visited her at school for about three to four of her periods - as a SURPRISE to her - and I had no trouble just showing up and explaining who I was and what I wanted to do. The office staff was curteous and quick to contact the teachers who said it was fine with them if I visited. In that time I figured out first of all that teenagers DO NOT like having you around (no surprise there - it was all part of my devious plan) and when I found out some of the reasons she wasn't doing work were silly such as not having a pen or not filling out a worksheet I made her do them, gave her a pen and told her I would continue to visit her school and shadow her if she didn't do her work. She got much better at doing her work. I sat quietly and observed. The teachers didn't seem to mind. In fact one of them seemed very happy to have my "help." I also would have been glad to assist the teacher if it was needed while I was there.

I only had to do these surprise visits twice, my daughter hated me showing up and looking over her shoulder so much she managed to do her work the rest of the year as I recall.

I do have safety concerns. Some parents are at the schools regularly, helping, picking up the kids and the staff are familiar with those folks. Some of them ARE trouble makers.

The following is hearsay and second hand information - not sure how accurate it is:

I understand there is a "room mother" at one of the elementary schools who made violent threats to another volunteer and made her cry. I also was told that this same "room mother" had previously had a restraining order taken out on her by the school for a violent/threatening incident last year - yet she has been volunteering this year. This seems BAD BAD BAD to me. That is the example of the kind of person who should NOT be admitted to the school and around children on a daily basis.

So YES there are some safety issues I worry about for sure - but I feel I should have the right to visit my child any time I like at the school. I think it's more important in elementary school to be able to show up and visit. I think it's even more important for the parents of special ed and special needs students to be able to visit frequently.

I think background checks on volunteers is a great idea. Previously when my youngest was in elementary school I emailed - I think it was Cherrydale Farms - anyway it was one of the "fund raiser" companies (that's a WHOLE other blog!) because they were doing a "carnival" as a reward during school hours and I wanted to know if they did background checks on the employees who were operating the equipment and assisting the children. I never got a response from them and I volunteered on carnival day in order to keep an eye out.

All contracted workers should be required to have background checks or work for companies that guarntee them to have background checks.

I have lots of feelings about this issue and I'm sure the board can come up with something that allows parents to feel as though they have fair access to their child while keeping the system "safe."

Can you write a blog about special needs and mainstreaming please? I have lots to say on that issue.

Jennifer Abell said...

All very good points and opinions. Keep the feedback and dialog going. Please share this site with family and friends. The more feedback the better! I'm sure we can come up with a win-win situation for everyone.

Heather the special needs post will be coming soon!

Jennifer Abell said...

This is the first I've heard of using this process. I will question this and get back to you.

LegalBeaglette said...

This issue was quite a topic of discussion at one of the holiday parties I attended. Parents DO feel excluded.

One of the women related that she was a single parent, and had always made clear to her children that disciplinary action taken at school would be supported and reinforced at home, and she assured them that any monkey business – skipping classes, misbehavior, poor grades – could result in their having her personal escort service throughout the school day, if necessary. They knew she meant what she said, and with older children, that’s "a fate worse than death.” The new policy, however, prevents parents from doing just that. She didn’t understand how the school system wanted parent support, but created policy which blocked their efforts to ensure the academic success and appropriate conduct of their children. It seemed to her the school system preferred formal disciplinary action, or academic failure, to actually working WITH parents to ensure success in school.

LegalBeaglette said...

Chris isn’t alone in his experience at a high school with this “process” of coordinating teacher contact through the guidance counselor. We had a similar experience at our child’s middle school: the school had “teams” and any meeting had to be arranged through the guidance counselor, and had to involve the “instructional team” (all the core teachers for a grade level) or the department chair, the guidance counselor, the principal, and the teacher.

I’m a little surprised this wasn’t raised by any parents who participated in the Communication Survey.

LegalBeaglette said...

I have a concern about "Anonymous" being given an "open door policy" by the teachers at his/her children's school. It seems to show that the Board's policy is being inconsistently applied.

As for Mr. Bailey "not hearing any question or concerns from the general public" – Board Minutes reflect otherwise.

I understand there was a petition signed by several hundred parents provided to the Board of Education regarding this. Is that correct?

Jennifer Abell said...

Yes, that seems to be the problem, inconsistentancy from school to school and even from parent to parent.
As for the petition, yes, we did receive one with a few hundred names but unfortunately, the Board at the time didn't have a majority vote to make any changes

Anonymous said...

Background checks, fingerprinting?? A big fat NO! One of my kid's school requires fingerprinting for ANY volunteering with children, including selling ice cream once a week. I used to be a very active school volunteer. Now, I do NOTHING for that particular school. I refuse to put my fingerprints into a government database that indicates I'm a Catholic. My forefathers shed blood and gave their lives to protect my privacy and liberty. I won't throw it away so I can serve ice cream or cut and laminate duckies. And no, I would not do ANYTHING (murder, adultery, euthanize someone, steal, etc.) to "protect" my child, especially when it involves stupid rules pointed directly at today's oh, so criminal "boogeymen" - aka parents. Hog wash! This isn't protecting children; it's a knee jerk reaction to the teachers and clergy who have been caught with their hands in some kid's pants.

Pure and simple, some teachers and administrators don't want you seeing what is.... or what's not.... going on in the classroom on a day to day basis. So, they create all this fear and hype about baaaaaad parents - not you, of course, but all of the other ones who will huff and puff and blow the school down and devour your precious little pork chop. It's a wonder any of us live through the night.

Does anyone remember the data mining that was going on in pre-Nazi and Nazi Germany back in the early to mid 1900's? Bet 'cha the Catholics and Jews didn't see any harm in proudly stating their religion or registering their handguns when asked. How could that possibly be turned against them?

Flash forward. We've now got a 10 digit "unique student identifier." Has ANYONE bothered to inform you exactly what EACH of those digits means? Is one of them reserved for labeling parents? Why are so many people willing to head down that data mining road in the 21st century - in America of all places? Why does the govenment need to collect and store all of this information on INNOCENT, LAW-ABIDING parents who are volunteering at little Jonny's school? Oh, yes, because there MIGHT be a boogeyman in their midst. Well, you know what? When I watch the evening news it's not the parent volunteers who are being arrested left and right. It's the teachers - WHO HAVE BEEN FINGERPRINTED AND HAD BACKGROUND CHECKS DONE! Based on this month's news stories alone, maybe we need MORE parents in the schools to keep an eye on the teachers, not fewer.

Yes, every business has their fair share of kook customers ("bad" parents). Administrators and teachers should just keep their eyes open (the way parent do) when volunteers are in the school. How many of you parent volunteers ever saw an administrator or a teacher making rounds in the volunteer workroom - other than to drop off more laminating?

Weren't we told in parenting 101, parenting books, and parenting magazines NOT to leave our children in institutions where we could not drop in unannounced? Weren't we encouraged to make frequent unannounced visits? Somehow many of those in the CCPS education realm consider themselves above reproach.

Customers usually make appointments, PARTNERS (in education)work together and alongside each other. Oh, yea. Maybe they only want us to be "silent partners" - hand over the money and the goods and keep your mouth shut and your eyes closed.

im1ru2 said...

Everyone seems to be talking about "physically" going into the classrooms, however, why not consider electronic visits? In other words, using our technology. Most schools already have some type of "office to classroom" voice connectivity so lets expand this to picture with our pc's and utilize it for parent visits as well as office to classroom communication. It does not have to be on at all times except when necessary - such as when a parent request a classroom visit turn the monitor and camera on. The pc in the classroom and the office connect, the parent stays in the office or another designated room, the kids are not bothered (or the teacher from teaching) the parent gets the visit and everyone is happy!

We don't need a special pc in every classroom either - the chance that a parent would be visiting every classroom at the same time is pretty remote - so have one for say every other class and move them as necessary until we can get one for every class. We can ask businesses to donate them as a tax break or the Fed gov. under NCLB even. Get creative! Hey, maybe the NEA would actually consider forking over some cash for the kids.

The point is that visits to the class for parents are important but so is keeping the class calm for the teacher but which is more important? As a parent but are very important. As a teacher or educator it would be the later leaving the parents unhappy. This creates an adversary environment which again leaves the kids as losers. So we all need to work together to resolve the problem which the latest ruling by the BOE and the school administration does not do regardless of what they think.

Jennifer Abell said...

I agree 100%. I have floated that very idea once before only to be met with "Do you know how much money that would cost?"
Now we already have cameras in a lot of schools and I see this as perfectly do-able. May be it's time for me to bring it up once AGAIN:)

Anonymous said...

That's all well and good, but our Johnny Cochranesk Mr. Schwartz has many times played the "Clarence Thomas" of the CCBOE Supreme Court and stated that you can't have recording devices in a classroom because it violates a student's right to privacy.
All this guy is doing is marching to the commander's beat.

Many, many schools allow students to record lectures for many reasons.
They want to keep the parents out of the classrooms so they won't find out what is "REALLY GOING ON"!

Jennifer, keep bringing this up and get the public to fight these control freaks.

Have them bring it up while it's being televised on channel 96.

Anonymous said...

I say that we start publishing what goes on in the classroom (teachers be hit and threatened), students being threatened, and have a public forum on the violence in the classroom.

Start by publishing the incidents that occur on a weekly basis in the newspaper. They will wake up and take notice.

im1ru2 said...

We aren’t talking about recording; nor are we talking about "catching" good or bad conduct here. As I recall we were talking about the issue of parent’s visits to the classrooms which right now stands totally at a failure standard; for everyone.

The cost factor issue is bogus, period. The technology is there and whichever group is advocating that it is not simply request a current inventory of ALL pc purchases from the budget over the last two - three years and shut them down. The only possible slowing down is the actual process of setting up the process. (In other words bureaucrats in charge of putting the rules in place).

This isn’t a perfect solution but I see it as a solution to a failing quagmire in which yet another issue just keeps on getting more and more lip service until finally the BOE (no offense Jen) and the School Administration simply closes the lid on the case without parental consent but with lots of NEA approval and we end up with yet another boondoggle.

Again, the pc process is not a recording but an actual live wireless feed not recording a single thing but simply providing an opportunity for the parent to stop in and see the classroom in real-time without interrupting the students and/or the teacher. What could be easier/better? If it cost a few bucks, so what?

Jennifer Abell said...

I agree whole heartedly. Now if we can just convince the rest of the Board :)

im1ru2 said...

Well how does that happen? Seems that something has to happen to make a change in the current rule(s) and as you have said you are just one individual on a board of seven.

Has this issue been "put to bed"? Or is there a way to have it revisited?

Jennifer Abell said...

Yes and no! I bring this topic up at least once a year, we vote, and nothing changes. (Check my topic category labelled "Policies and Rules" )
The last time was April 23 Meeting (you can review my notes) and the Board even held a forum on the parent visitation rule. Numerous citizens came and spoke as well as principals. And then the Board voted to leave it as it was.

I can bring it up for discussion again, but it is entirely up to the Chairman (Wade) whether or not he puts it on our agenda. The last time I received a comment to the effect, we've already discussed this why are you bringing it up again.

I woudl say citizens need to discuss with the other Board members to sway their decision.