Subcommittee works to perfect parent-engagement policy

Policy expected to be brought before the board for a third time in August


Douglas County's District Accountability Committee is reviewing a policy to present to the board of education to better connect parents and schools.

“Kids learn better when parents are involved,” DAC communications officer Marco Fields said at a public meeting on July 10 in Castle Rock. “That's at the root of what we are trying to create here.”

By law, every school district in Colorado must have a District Accountability Committee. Made up of parents, teachers, district staff and community members, the committee advises the school board on issues that include budget, charter school applications, improvement plans and parent-engagement plans.

The district's first parent-engagement policy was adopted in 2003 and repealed by the school board in 2005, according to district documents. It was then enacted and revised by the superintendent, but never fully implemented. School districts with Title 1 programs, which provide funding to schools where 75 percent or more students are considered low-income, are required to have a parent- and family-engagement policy, according to the Colorado Department of Education.

Some parents and DAC members say the former reform-minded school board caused a disengagement of parents, which sparked the need for such a policy.

“The prior board was not parent focused,” said retired teacher Gary Colley, who formed a Community Accountability Committee for the district in late 2013 to work with the board on education issues. “When the parent community is actively engaged, they start to have a voice on what is going on in our schools and community.”

The type of policy “applies to everyone,” Colley said. “Everyone must be held accountable.”

The DAC first presented a draft of its parent engagement policy to the school board at a board meeting in February. The board tabled the action because of unclear language and asked for a second draft, which the board also deemed insufficient.

The school board then delegated board member Kevin Leung — who serves as the board's liaison for the DAC — to work with the district's then-legal counsel, Steve Colella, and DAC member Christian Phelps to rewrite a draft that would meet state and national requirements.

Under statute, a parent-engagement policy should increase and support parent engagement and provide training on best practices for school personnel who work with parents.

Members of the DAC and a subcommittee focused on parent engagement met on July 10 to formulate a final draft, which combines effective language and ideas from previous drafts.

 DAC members believe a parent-engagement policy will strengthen parent organizations in schools, such as school accountability committees and parent teacher organizations.

“The new one has a mechanism for parents to voice their frustrations,” Leung said at the July 10 meeting.

The parent engagement subcommittee will present its final draft to the DAC at an Aug. 14 meeting. If approved, Leung will ask the school board to revisit the policy, which is expected to happen at an August board meeting.


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