Parents & Partners: SPS looks to engage parents

Published 8:10 pm Monday, March 20, 2023

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Suffolk Public Schools is holding a new conference style event called Parents and Partners featuring informational sessions and workshops for parents, activities for students kindergarten through 12th grade.

Additionally community partners are going to be on-hand with their resources for participants from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, March 25 at King’s Fork Middle School.

“This is kind of a brainchild of ours being spearheaded by Dr. Branch, our chief academic officer, where we’ve actually since we began to open things back up for volunteering after COVID, that we wanted to re-engage our parents,” Superintendent Dr. John B. Gordon III said in a Thursday, March 16 interview.. “We also wanted to let our parents know that things have changed for your kid since the pandemic started, and ended.”

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In a message sent to parents, SPS officials said the workshops and panel discussions will address today’s hot topics and empowerment sessions. Families will also enjoy lunch together. 

“Since parents are part of it, we’re going to talk about mental health issues,” Gordon said. “We’re going to talk about study tips. We’re going to try to incentivize folks for coming by giving lunch and some good snacks.”

He said Branch just reminded all of our leaders about finding ways to make sure all students in the school know about the event. He said some may be offered extra credit for attending, noting they want to get people involved.

“We kind of started this whole concept with a special education parent support group where I wanted special education parents to be able to communicate with each other,” Gordon said, “because as peers and share stories, testimonials, look for other ways of support, with that particular group of students you never understand what it’s like to be a special education parent unless you have a special education student. So even though many of us can be very empathic, sometimes it means more when you’re hearing it from other people.”

Gordon added that the division strategically planned the event around “assesment season” as SOLs have just started for students.

“Assessment season creates a lot of anxiety for students,” he said. “It also creates a lot of anxiety for staff because in some ways, their evaluations and other things they are trying to do are tied to that.”

Gordon said they want to try everything they can to get everyone on the same page.

“We know that not always do the parents that we need to have come to parent-teacher conferences actually show up. Sometimes it’s the ones that kids are already doing well because those parents are extremely engaged, which is great,” he said.

Gordon said they are looking at more opportunities to better engage the community. He then pointed to future events being planned for next year. 

“The special education parent group meets in April, August and December,” Gordon said. “We basically do it every three to four months. It kind of aligns with what’s happening in school. This is an area and a group of students that we’re really focused on.”