Some Tips for Increasing parent participation in School Councils

It’s back to school time again! This is always an exciting yet busy time of year.  School Councils are starting up and I have been asked a few times this week for suggestions on how to get more parents out to participate in school council meetings.

Below is a list of some great ideas I have heard over the years from many different people and many different school communities to make school councils more inclusive and inviting.  You may have to try a few different ideas and also utilize them every year, as each school community is different and there are new families moving into schools continuously.

-Let your school community know that school councils exist to advise the principal and the Board of Trustees on school matters.  The principal and the school community work together in collaboration to help foster a learning environment for each and every student.

-Go and talk to Kindergarten parents and other new parents to the school. Give each of them a personalized invitation (doesn’t have to be fancy) from your school council inviting them to the first meeting of the year.  The education system can be intimidating to new Kindergarten parents with lots to learn and information to navigate through.  School council can be a great resource for everyone.

- Offer free babysitting in another room of the school during the meeting.  See if anyone has older siblings that are of babysitting age who could look after the children.  Many parents find it difficult to attend meetings at night because they don’t have child care.

- Set up a table or a booth at meet the teacher nights, parent-teacher interview nights, events or ceremonies held at your school.  Make sure to let people know that everyone is invited, you need parents to help out in various capacities within the school.

- If you attend a school council meeting then you will get front row reserved seating at a school performance during the year (a real bonus as it beats standing in an gigantic lineup if it’s a winter concert).

- FOOD.  Food is always good to serve at a council meeting especially since everyone is busy and they may have not had time to eat dinner beforehand.  It doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive but it is always appreciated.

- Have you looked into changing the day or time of your council meeting?  Send out a survey to get input on what day or time is best fit for your school community.  Different communities have different needs and the time and day that has always worked may not work anymore.

- Post pictures of current council members on the school bulletin board and in other places around the school to let people know who you are. Invite people to come and talk to you if they see you in around the community about getting involved in the school.

- Bring in guest speakers to talk with parents on various topics of interest that are relevant to parents such as students, learning, curriculum, child development, bullying, parenting tips, etc.  Ask for input from parents on what they would like to learn more about.

- Inform your school community that school council is not just about raising funds for the school.  School council is about making the school a better place for everyone in it and your voice is important.

- Door prizes for new attendees.

- Let people know that there are many opportunities to volunteer on council and that some of the roles for helping out on council require a small amount of time and can be done from home.

I hope this is helpful.  If you know of other tips and tricks that have worked at your school council, email me at jmboweneyre@gmail.com and I will add to the list.

Together and in collaboration, we can build strong schools

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