Parent participation has always been a hallmark of the program at Beechwood School. Volunteering, taking classes, conferencing with teachers and paying tuition are all part of the commitment that Beechwood families make when they agree to become part of our school community.
Recently, I am observing that Beechwood parents are taking their involvement at the school to a higher level: from participation to true engagement. When parents are truly engaged they are viewing the school and the broader community with a critical eye, they are making suggestions for improvement and communicating those ideas to the people who make decisions. Engagement means that parents are not just waiting for directions and following them but, rather, making the leap to being equal partners in the process of improving the school.
1. The parent support group led by Bella Aguilar, whose daughter Celeste is in the 6th grade, has been a great addition to our Parent Education program. I was able to be with this group twice and was so impressed by Ms. Aguilar’s ability to facilitate a meeting and with the parent’s insightful observations about Beechwood. The environment that has been created in the Parent Support group makes it safe to say what parents are thinking, even if it is critical.
Here is a quote from Ms. Aguilar:
Facilitating the Parent Support Group was an amazing experience. I overcame my fear of speaking and translating in a group setting. The group was very welcoming; I felt respected and acknowledged. The most rewarding part was interacting with fellow parents who were willing to listen to each other, being supportive and sharing great ideas. The group was very engaging and with a great desire to be involved. I am grateful to be part of the Beechwood Community.
2. Parents were recently invited to a meeting with Menlo Park Police to discuss issues of safety and crime in Belle Haven. Despite short notice, we had over 30 families come out for the discussion facilitated by Beechwood parent, Alejandro Vilchez. The level of engagement at this meeting was impressive as well. Parents asked pointed but respectful questions about issues ranging from the racial makeup of the police force to rules about overnight parking. It was everything we hoped the meeting would be and I am sure that the officers from MPPD left feeling that Beechwood parents truly care about their community.
Here is a quote from one of the parents in attendance, Tiffany Butler, whose daughter Eniya is in the 2nd grade:
Thank you again for setting up the parent meeting with the Menlo Park Police Department. Originally I did not know what I should expect of it and was very pleased with the outcome. I felt that the meeting was very useful and insightful. I especially thought the meeting was not only facilitated to perfection but a well-organized forum which helped bridge the Beechwood community with our local police department. Parents were provided with a safe platform to share personal experiences, discuss neighborhood developments. This helped the parent body understand the shared vision of officers and community of maintaining a safe neighborhood. Furthermore, it was great to see that after a recommendation for a similar session with the EPA Police department, you took immediate action to have something scheduled. The voices of the Parents are heard and were responded to!
3. At each monthly meeting of the Beechwood Board of Directors, the parents are represented by Mandy Goldman, whose daughter Bowie is in the 2nd Grade. Mandy does a great job of listening to parents concerns and then passing that feedback onto the Board. At our most recent meeting, there was much discussion about future plans for the Beechwood playground. It was a valuable discussion initiated by Mandy and the constructive criticism she was hearing from parents.
Here is a quote from her:
During my short time as Parent Board Rep, I’ve come to recognize just how valuable our parent feedback truly is and that communication is crucial. In addition to the Board’s responsibilities such as funding, energizing parent education and finishing the new campus, they are also grateful to hear our ideas, questions, hopes and concerns. By engaging in this dialogue, the Board and faculty can make appropriate decisions that positively impact the school and of course most importantly, our children’s education. Providing feedback from parents has given me an outlet to connect with other families at school so the experience has been very rewarding!
Congratulations to these amazing Beechwood parents and to all of the parents who are challenging themselves to take on a greater role in the future of Beechwood. I appreciate you!