PPS of Greater Kalamazoo Hosts Parent Engagement Roundtable

“What does authentic parent engagement mean to your organization?” That question was posed to five non-profit organizations working in Kalamazoo County, Michigan, by Parents for Public Schools of Greater Kalamazoo (PPS-GK) at its first Parent Engagement (PE) Roundtable meeting on February 26th. The purpose of the meeting was to begin building productive, action-oriented relationships among parent-serving organizations that would support parents as change agents in public schools.   

PPS-GK started the PE Roundtable by asking parent-serving organizations to share their approaches and methods for authentic parent engagement. The organizations shared they felt it was important to “meet parents where they are” instead of always trying and expecting parents to come to you. Also, achieving authentic parent engagement takes actually listening to parents to understand their needs and interests. And if parents are to be leaders in supporting public school education, they must be provided the skills and tools to help them gain the confidence to sit at the decision-making table.

Next, PPS-GK board chair Meg Blinkiewicz and Parent Engagement Program (PEP) Manager Paula Kizer presented the PPS “triple aim” for parent engagement: Leadership Development for Parents, Public Awareness for Parent Engagement, and Organizing for Action. They explained that each of the triple aim concepts is linked in the process of engaging parents, and the PE Roundtable role in each. For their first role, the organizations were invited to participate in PPS-GK’s upcoming PEP training scheduled to launch in the fall.

The PE Roundtable discussed two rallying points for parent engagement: kindergarten readiness and getting parents to the decision-making table. Presently, Kalamazoo has a major focus on early childhood education and kindergarten readiness. Already in the works is a developing partnership with PE Roundtable participants PPS-GK and the Great Start Collaborative of Kalamazoo County. This partnership is working to create a community conversation around asking parents, “Are YOU ready for kindergarten?” The PE Roundtable agreed that PPS-GK can be the organization to which parents are “handed-off” as students transition from the early childhood system to the public school system. To prepare parents for the decision-making table, the PE Roundtable identified PEP training as its strategy and agreed to recruit parents for this initiative.

As PPS-GK moves forward with its work, it will continue to convene the PE Roundtable, with specific focus on PEP planning and organizing for action. PPS-GK is very encouraged with the results of the first PE Roundtable meeting and the potential for its participants to work together to promote and provide strategies for authentic parent engagement, and would be more than willing to share further information with PPS Chapters.