All hands on deck for par­ents

There are plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to get in­volved in your child’s school

Toronto Star - - PRIVATE SCHOOLS - VAWN HIM­MELS­BACH SPE­CIAL TO THE STAR

Par­ents are busier than ever, but still want to be in­volved with their chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion — whether it’s help­ing out with the school play or join­ing the par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

Par­ent in­volve­ment is a key com­po­nent of the pri­vate school sys­tem, which re­lies on fundrais­ing, but it’s also an op­por­tu­nity to meet other par­ents, in­ter­act with teach­ers and un­der­stand what kids are learn­ing.

Tina Bose’s three chil­dren at­tend Toronto French School (TFS). Back in 2003, she started volunteering as a class rep and help­ing out with pizza lunches.

“As I be­came a lit­tle more con­fi­dent, and as my net­work within the school grew, I took on in­creas­ing lev­els of par­tic­i­pa­tion,” says Bose, now pres­i­dent of the TFS Par­ents’ As­so­ci­a­tion. “There’s a range of op­por­tu­ni­ties for all par­ents depend­ing on their time or skill set, or even their in­ter­ests. We have a lot of par­ents who are both work­ing, so we rec­og­nize that and try to cater to that.”

The par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion meets at dif­fer­ent times to cater to var­i­ous work sched­ules. It’s also re­vamp­ing its web­site this year so par­ents who can’t at­tend have ac­cess to meet­ing min­utes and other doc­u­ments.

Class par­ties al­low par­ents to get to know other par­ents in a more in­for­mal set­ting and the prin­ci­pal’s break­fast al­lows par­ents to dis­cuss top­ics of in­ter­est to the school.

Par­ents can also at­tend var­i­ous lec­tures on sub­jects rang­ing from the latest study­ing strate­gies to un­der­stand­ing how kids are us­ing so­cial media.

“For me, com­mu­nity ex­tends not just to our ge­o­graph­i­cal lo­ca­tion but in ar­eas with our chil­dren,” says San­dra Sul­li­van-Keeley, a par­ent at TFS. “That’s some­thing we de­cided would be an im­pact­ful and good use of our time.”

Each year, a fam­ily in each class vol­un­teers to host a par­ents’ welcome wine-and-cheese evening.

Sul­li­van-Keeley im­me­di­ately got in­volved in the par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion and vol­un­teered as a class rep, help­ing to keep other par­ents in­formed about school ac­tiv­i­ties — such as who’s bring­ing the cup­cakes for the Hal­loween party. She has since helped or­ga­nize pizza lunches, chaired the fun fair and or­ga­nized a gala event.

Pizza lunches, which help raise money for the school, are a great way for par­ents, who don’t have a lot of time, to get in­volved.

At Bishop Stra­chan School, a pri­vate school for girls, there’s even a po­si­tion ded­i­cated to this: di­rec­tor of com­mu­nity re­la­tions. Claire Reed serves as a re­source for par­ents and acts as a li­ai­son be­tween the school and par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion.

All par­ents are au­to­mat­i­cally part of the par­ents’ as­so­ci­a­tion, though there are about 25 for­mal roles on the ex­ec­u­tive board. Par­ents can also get in­volved in a num­ber of ways, from volunteering in the Learn­ing Com­mons (which in­cludes a li­brary, mu­seum and ar­chives), to help­ing out with a school play, be­ing a judge in a public speak­ing tour­na­ment, or driv­ing stu­dents around on the “Trick or Eat” food drive.

“The op­por­tu­ni­ties are wide and there’s some­thing for ev­ery­body,” says Reed. The school also of­fers lec­tures and learn­ing events for par­ents; new this year is “cof­fee and con­ver­sa­tion” for par­ents of for­eign stu­dents, who want to prac­tise their English.

THE BISHOP STRA­CHAN SCHOOL

BSS par­ents Kim Edwards and David Grant help out at a re­cent Har­vest Games com­mu­nity event on cam­pus.

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