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OKCPS sets up Super Saturdays to increase parental involvement



Seated around a classroom table, a half-dozen moms share their best advice for getting in touch with teachers.

The parent of a 12th-grader recommends joining elementary students on their morning walk. A John Marshall High School parent emails her children’s teachers because she works fulltime. The email responses keep her in the loop for upcoming assignments. One mother group texts with her daughter’s teacher about important classroom happenings.

As parents offer different methods of communication, other parents nod and wait to give personal testimonies of developing relationships with teachers, which helped their children be successful in school.

These mothers, representing a variety of district schools, were just a small number of the parents that attended the first Super Saturday workshop at John Marshall High School on Sept. 12.

The workshop, “The What, Why and How of Family Engagement for Student Success,” was facilitated by Teach for America’s Marissa Alberty, who addressed the impact of parent involvement in schools. She cited a 2010 University of Chicago study that found schools with strong parental involvement are 10 times more likely to improve substantially in math than schools with weak parental involvement.

Leaders of the Oklahoma City Public Schools district, home to 46,000 students, understand the significance of parents in building successful schools. As part of the district’s five-year strategic plan called the Great Commitment, staff created professional development events with the goal of helping parents become active in their child’s education. The sessions take place this fall.

One-stop shop

Judith Huerta, a parent and community specialist with the district, said Super Saturdays was developed after collaborating with a Houston school district that conducts a similar event, and describes it as a one-stop shop for parents to find resources addressing family wellness and leadership, learning at home and college and career readiness.

“The type of workshops included … help parents prepare their kids with reading and math at home,” said Huerta.

However, Super Saturdays goes beyond providing tips for homework. The workshops cover topics such as protecting children from predators, family health and wellness, child support and paternity issues, family relationship advice, life after high school for students with disabilities, resources for undocumented students and education advocacy.

Tierney Tinnin, the district’s communications and community relations officer, said a parent survey fueled the workshop topics. In response to parent’s seeking help with money, three financial institutions volunteered to offer workshops, one of which focuses on understanding credit scores.

“If that is a barrier that is preventing parents from being engaged in their child’s education, we will seek community partners to offer that education,” Tinnin said.

More than 30 organizations participate in the weekend work groups, including Gear Up, University of Central Oklahoma, Rose State College, Latinos without Borders, Oklahoma Parent Center and YWCA. Many provide parents with additional information and an opportunity to ask questions at the resource fair, which highlights services offered in health, education and social programs in Oklahoma City.

More than 200 families registered to participate in the first Super Saturday, Huerta said. The district’s goal is to reach 1,200 families at the six events planned through November.

As parents left the first seminar, staff collected surveys to assess the class and learn about obstacles parents face. The survey results could trigger the district to return Super Saturdays in the spring or create future parent events, Huerta said.

School leaders urge parents to take part in Super Saturdays. While the district’s strategic plan calls for changes in curriculum to improve educational outcomes, parent involvement is a valuable component to the district’s success, said school board member Bob Hammack, who attended the first Saturday group.

“For us to do our job on the school board, it takes good teachers, it takes talented principals, but it takes a third group and that’s parents,” he said. “You have to have parental involvement.”

Super Saturdays

8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Saturday

U.S. Grant High School

5016 S. Pennsylvania Ave.


8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Oct. 3

Douglass Mid-High School

900 Martin Luther King Ave.


8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Oct. 31

Capitol Hill High School

500 SW 36th St.


8 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Nov. 7

NW Classen High School

2801 NW 27th St.


Print headline: Super start, OKCPS sets up weekend workshops to increase parental involvement.


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