Parent outreach coordinator post discussed in Dist. 97

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By Terry Dean

Staff reporter

Oak Park Elementary School District 97 is considering creating a parent outreach coordinator position. The new post was a stated goal in the district’s 2007 strategic plan but has yet to be authorized.

Michelle Harton, a board member who will depart after the April elections, has pushed the district and board to at least discuss whether the position is worth pursuing. That talk occurred during a study session of the board March 1.

Listed as parent “ombudsman” in the strategic plan, the position is meant to be a point person for parents with kids in the district, but who aren’t as active or present in the schools.

Harton, who sat on a strategic plan committee that developed the goal to create the position, said those parents are disconnected for a variety of reasons. Some parents work multiple jobs and can’t attend every school-related function, she said. And there are those new families to the district who need help with basic questions, she said.

Harton said those parents might network with other families to learn how to “navigate” the system. But she recalled that members of the strategic planning committee felt those parents would be better served by having an outreach coordinator as well. Harton noted—as did her fellow board members during their study session—that the district has often been cited by parents for communicating information poorly. She said the outreach coordinator was meant to help address that issue also. Harton, though, added that the coordinator would be open to every parent in the district who needed assistance.

The board spent about an hour discussing the position. Some supported its creation while others opposed it and questioned the need for it at all. Jim Gates strongly opposes the position. A former Dist. 97 teacher, Gates insisted that the parent-teacher relationship needed to be strengthened in the district and a parent coordinator would get in the way of that. Jennifer Reddy also questioned the need to create the position.

Peter Barber said he could support the post if it had a specific focus on those parents who are disconnected for whatever reason from the district. Barber said he didn’t see the need to have the coordinator available to any and all parents. Rance Clouser and Bob Spatz expressed support for the position.

Peter Traczyk, the board’s president, weighted the pros and cons of the position, but stressed that if some parents find it difficult to “navigate the system,” then the district’s focus should be on making sure the system works for all parents. Barber also noted that point. Traczyk also wondered if one person would be able to coordinate information going to so many parents.

Harton said another idea behind the position was that the coordinator would help facilitate a volunteer parent network in each building. So, for those parents who need help, they can rely as much on fellow parents, as well as the coordinator.

Following their study session talk, Traczyk said the board will revisit the coordinator position in a future board discussion. He added that the district will do some research on the position, including looking at other school districts with such a post.

Reader Comments

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Good Listener  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 1:10 PM

The conversation about ombudsman came under discussion of the Strategic Plan. It was specified as a needed position almost 5 years ago and the Board wanted to discuss this before terms ended this year. The Board president made it very clear that this was not up for funding at this time and was only for discussion. Don't get too is normal work of the Board to discuss items in its long term plan. The position is not intended to be an admin anyway even if it ever comes to pass.

OP tax payer/D97 parent  

Posted: March 21st, 2011 11:15 AM

Each PTO has it's own parent involvement committee. Every principal is tasked with parent outreach. Each teacher is on point to communicate. D97 has an excellent Comm Dir. Room parents, digital backpacks, websites, newsletters, flyers & parents all get the word out on school activities. Taxpayers can do NO more to serve parents that either will not or can not get involved. "Ombudsman" is gov't speak for more bureaucracy. Any member of the current board that supports should not serve again.

Alan Reed from Oak Park, Illinois  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 5:23 PM

If this is a top priority for the schools, then fine. But, the position shouldn't be in addition to current staff or spending....what are the schools/parents willing to give up in order to have this new position. I will not assume that it has no value, but I'd ask that tough choices be made about this like every other hire and district expense. And, since I don't believe that process will happen, I'll suggest that we all vote NO and force it to happen.

JC from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 4:32 PM

Is this like the racist community outreach position that they tried to implement at the high school? That position was originally intended to help only black families (apparently they are the only people of need attending in Oak Park) until Lisa Madigan's office got involved and forced the HS to assure that the position helped all students. Regardless, seems like an unwise expense in this time of fiscal constraint.

Interested Parent  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 3:35 PM

Why are you all assuming this is another administrator? As discussed at the Board table, this is drafted as a parent outreach position that probably doesn't even fit under the teacher pay schedule. It would be more like a support person, paid at a rate more like a beginning teacher and not part of the union. This is NOT an administrator position if it ever comes to pass (no certain thing).

Insider D 97 from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 3:24 PM

Please don't consolidate the school districts. We need more administrators to explain why they are so opposed to consolidating the school districts. Tax revenue parasites. Another entitled bureaucrat who loves to raise taxes as they drive from the community after a day in Oak Park serving the CHILDREN.

Virginia from Oak Park  

Posted: March 17th, 2011 2:44 PM

District 97 just does not get it! They claim to be broke but are considering another administrator? Let teachers, parents or the principal do parent outreach. Oak Park taxpayers have had enough! Do not give them one penny more of your hard-earned money until they learn the value of YOUR money.


Posted: March 16th, 2011 12:07 PM

So, on the one hand OP97 needs more of our tax money, but, on the other is discussing hiring another administrator?

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