Community Conversations

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BACKGROUND:

During the 2015-16 school year the Des Moines Education Association, with assistance and support from the National Education Association and community partners, held a series of three “community conversations” where everyone from the Des Moines community were invited to attend.

The community conversations gathered small groups of community members, educators, and students together to discuss three areas of concern; (1) raising expectations for all students, (2) boosting parental and community involvement to support students, and (3) ensuring safe and respectful learning environments.

Through the process of small group conversations with trained facilitators the community conversations identified three broad priority areas to take action on. These PRIORITY AREAS were:

1 – RELATIONSHIP BUILDING

2 – ENHANCING COMMUNICATIONS

3 – DIVERSITY BRIDGING

Participants in the conversations offered their ideas for actions that could be taken in these priority areas. The following report presents the steps that participants are calling for action on as we move forward.

Priority Area 1 – Relationship Building

 In order to build better relationships between the DMPS, it’s schools, and the community; we are calling for the following steps to be taken:

  1. Holding school board meetings at neighborhood schools or other public facilities, such as libraries.
  2. Holding school board meetings at different times during the day that will be accessible for parents and community members.
  3. Providing more opportunities for interactive events for community members to participate in at neighborhood schools.
  4. Holding a DMPS Volunteer Open House to help connect potential volunteers with volunteer opportunities.
  5. Seriously consider reinstating family advocate positions with an enhanced role.
  6. Holding “DMPS 101” and “Parent School” seminars to help parents/families get to know the DMPS and their neighborhood schools.
  7. Making sure every school holds open houses at the beginning of the school year.
  8. Providing more support for educators that will allow educators to be able to focus more time on building relationships with students and families (support should include adequate planning time, smaller class sizes, adequate SPED support, adequate counseling support, etc.)

Priority Area 2 – Enhancing Communications

In order to improve communications between the DMPS, it’s schools, and the community; we are calling for the following steps to be taken:

  1. Offering information from DMPS and schools in all languages.
  2. Adding enhancements to the DMPS APP like a calendar function for individual schools.
  3. Reaching out to community organizations to enlist their help in better communicating with parents and families.
  4. Creating “communication profiles” for each student/family.
  5. Creating a DMPS Helpline available in multiple languages.
  6. Improving translation capabilities available to all staff.
  7. Increasing the family advocates and translator programs to serve more families.
  8. Creating “family centers” at schools where families can go to access information, programs, and services.
  9. Providing quarterly reports to families on the status of their neighborhood schools that go beyond test score data.
  10. Ensure that information posted on individual schools websites is accurate and up to date.
  11. Encourage neighborhood schools to utilize diverse forms of communication, including social media.

Priority Area 3 – Diversity Bridging

 In order to bridge the diversity gaps between the DMPS, it’s schools, and the community; we are calling for the following steps to be taken:

  1. Making cultural proficiency training an every year part of employee training for every employee.
  2. Providing learning environments that are responsive to the diverse ways in which students learn and demonstrate that learning.
  3. Reviewing policies and procedures to make sure they address the needs of students and families of today.
  4. Expand programs that encourage students to become interested in education as a potential career path. Target recruitment for these programs to students of color.
  5. Finding ways to involve DMPS and the schools in activities that tackle the effects of poverty in our community.
  6. Implementing culturally aware behavioral procedures.
  7. Involving the DMPS and schools in more of our community wide cultural events.
  8. Moving school meetings and events into the community.
  9. Holding a “Diversity University” where students from diverse cultures can teach others about their cultures.
  10. Increase hiring of minority teachers and administrators to better reflect the diverse backgrounds of our students and families.
  11. Improve retention of minority teachers and administrators.
  12. Produce annual reports on hiring and retention under Management Limitations 2.2