Town Crier

WILMINGTON — A group of Wilmington parents shared a presentation with their plans for a district-wide parent working group at the School Com­mittee meeting last Wed­nesday night. The group is made up of 12 parents equally representing each WPS school to fill in any communication gaps and create a healthy space for parents to interact with other parents, teachers, and staff.

The group was first formed in March and had connected regularly with the Family and Commu­nity Outreach Subcommit­tee. With feedback gathered from district stakeholders and research from surrounding districts, they were invited back to share their final proposal with the entire committee.

Parent working group member Barb Beaudoin explained that their intent is to create a productive and constructive group focused on positive outcomes even when their ideas may be different.

The next member discussed that the group saw their purpose as filling gaps and unmet needs within the school district. In an effort to identify those gaps, they conducted more than 25 interviews with teachers at the district and school level. They reported that all of the stakeholders could see the need for better communication and support among parents and be­tween parents and administration and teachers.

“The group aims to create community by providing space for families to listen and learn from each other and enhance pathways for collaboration be­tween parents and administration,” the presenters said.

Some of the goals that the group identified were to expand access and in­clusion, lower barriers for participation and engagement, provide a variety of ways to connect, amplify district messaging, create opportunities to listen and learn, and promote positive and productive interactions.

They would name the parent advisory group: Parent and guardian Ad­vocates for Wilmington Schools, or PAWS. PAWS is proposed to be an independent group that continues to work closely with the Family and Commu­nity Outreach Subcommit­tee. The group will start this month by launching a Facebook page and begin hosting community conversations and planning meetings in October.

While the two parents and guardians representing each school will still help with planning, all pa­rents in town will be invited to participate. They said that their focus could possibly be on things like navigating WPS, the district strategic plan, and coordination across grades and schools.

Group member Urszula Tasto mentioned that some of the outcomes that they’d like to see would range from supporting parents and guardians, connecting and leveraging the broader community, supporting cohesion across the district, and expanding ac­cess to all families.

School Committee member M. J. Byrnes was the first to share her support for the proposal.

“I was hesitant with the initial approach,” she said. “In seeing it more clearly, it’s great to see expectations and directions.”

She also asked how often meetings would be and whether there would be virtual access for parents. The group members said that they realize the value of parent time and would want to have structure and virtual options to provide boundaries and ac­cess. They also suggested that the group would meet monthly.

Melissa Plowman asked how this group would separate themselves from each school’s Parent Advisory Committee.

“My worry is that we’ll dilute the pool [of volunteers],” she continued.

The PAWS members ex­plained that this group would have a macro view of the district rather than zeroing in on a particular school or teacher issue.

Plowman added that she appreciated the group pro­viding a positive forum for parents instead of so­cial media.

Jay Samaha shared ex­citement for the idea. He said that he could see how it could be helpful to have parents and guardians from the other schools share their experiences.

David Ragsdale said, “I like the looking forward aspect of trying to know in advance what you’re getting into.”

He saw that the group would be set up for sustainability and give parents the right amount of involvement and information. He also asked what the major themes were that stakeholders brought up, and they named two-way communication and connection across town as the main ones.

Superintendent Dr. Glenn Brand also thanked the group and said he viewed this as an opportunity to strengthen the partnership between the teachers and administration and the parents and guardians.

Jenn Bryson said, “This is definitely the direction we need to be moving in.”

She expressed hope for this group creating cohesion across schools and town.

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