Parents and adults who get involved in education increase the odds of success for students and schools. Opportunities to contribute have expanded beyond a seat on an elected school board or membership in a Parent-Teacher Organization. Many schools have standing committees that welcome the participation of parents and other volunteers who want to play a role in supporting and improving local schools.
Fund-raising committees are playing increasingly important roles for schools struggling to educate students with limited resources. Fund-raising committees vary in size and scope. They can be general committees that raise money to offer overall support to a school or district, or they can target goals such as buying books for the school library or computers for the tech lab. Fund-raising committees often run events that can range from bake sales and car washes to community-wide carnivals, golf tournaments and auctions. Members also conduct campaigns that elicit donations from local businesses.
Curriculum committees review text books, learning materials and educational programs and offer recommendations about which resources a school district should purchase. Experienced teachers usually lead curriculum committees, but parents and community members are often offered a chance to participate. Curriculum committees may review student test scores to determine if there are weaknesses in student performance that can be improved with a change of books or programming. Textbooks represent a significant investment, and curriculum committee members need to be aware of the latest educational developments and requirements for state and national testing and college boards. Because taxpayer dollars are usually at stake, curriculum committees also need to consider the sensibilities of the community when making choices.
Building and Facility Committees
Schools often form committees to oversee buildings and grounds. Usually parents and community members who have some expertise in construction and maintenance serve on these committees with school personnel and elected officials who can contribute information about budgets and the bidding process. Members on these committees often perform site visits to assess the condition of facilities and the need for repairs. They can also review plans for new buildings and sports fields, interview contractors and make recommendations for the elected school board.
Parent Advisory Committees
Some schools have parent advisory committees, or PACs, that review issues related to specific populations of students such as children with special needs, gifted students or students for whom English is a second language. Parents on these committees share information about their children that educators can use to design programs that meet common needs and interests of the particular group. A seat on a PAC also allows parents an opportunity to share information and resources with other parents whose children have similar educational goals and experiences.
Laura Scott has been reporting for Gatehouse Media New England, Essex County Newspapers and other regional publishers since 1997. She won several New England Press Association awards for her coverage of the fishing industry and coastal communities. Scott is a graduate of Vassar College and has a master's degree in American studies from Boston College. She also attended art school in Italy.