DPS Corner: Principals’ tips for parents

Aug. 25, 2014 @ 09:56 AM

With today's start for traditional-calendar schools, Durham Public Schools is fully open for business for all of our projected 33,650 students. The first month of school is an important time of transition for students; by developing good academic and social habits today, they can set the stage for greater academic success throughout the year. We went to some of our principals for their advice to families on how they can best support their children after school begins.
Fostering healthy and frequent communication was a common thread among the principals. Mangum Elementary Principal Karen Kellett said: “We’re focusing on relationships, rigor and resources at Mangum — putting the right people in the right places to get the most impact for our children — and that includes the entire community from parents to volunteers. Parents can help us by keeping in regular touch with their child’s teachers. When students, parents and the community work together with our school our growth will be exponential.”
Little River Elementary Principal Cory Hogans offered some specific tips for building those relationships. “Meet the teacher and ask how you can best support the learning program for your child. Also ask how the teacher prefers to communicate with parents and take advantage of it regularly. Joining your PTA is also a great way to stay connected, and if your school doesn’t have an active PTA work with other parents to start it up.” Hogans also said that it was important to support your child with healthy school routines such as bed times, notebook/backpack management and a homework area. “As part of that routine, talk about the day with your children,” he said. “Ask about lunch, recess, how they feel about their teachers and classmates, and how the morning’s classwork went.”
Speaking of routines, Parkwood Elementary Principal Michelle Bell pointed to a specific one that parents must support: getting their children to school on time. “My school’s day starts at 9 a.m., and if children come in late they’re already rushed and it makes them anxious,” she said. “Arriving on time makes the whole school day better. Bring your child early enough to ease into their day. Don’t forget that all of our schools now offer the Universal Free Breakfast program, so if you’re running late in the morning you can get your child to school on time without sacrificing a meal.”
Middle College High School Principal Dr. Charles Nolan gathered some advice to parents at the start of the school year from his students. “Check to see if your student is prepared with needed materials,” he said. “Review your student’s schedule now and again a week after school starts to make sure it lines up with his or her academic goals. Know the name of your student’s school counselor and, for juniors and seniors, contact them within the first month for information about scholarship opportunities. And be sure to dedicate at least an hour of quiet time at home for your student, either after school or in the evening.”
Both Dr. Nolan and Rogers-Herr Middle School Principal Michael Fuga urged parents to keep an eye out for information from their school about the web-based PowerSchool Parent Portal, which allows families to track student classwork and attendance in real time. Fuga also echoed other principals’ emphasis on communication. “There is so much information parents need to feel comfortable with student safety and success to start the year,” he said. “Students are typically pretty resilient, but parents need to feel connected to feel secure. We work hard to share information about transportation schedules, important forms, event calendars and contact information. But we’re here to listen as well. We want to hear from you, and we want to hear about your child.”
“When our students see us all working together, they know we’re all supportive and serious about education,” Fuga said. “And they rise to the occasion.”

DPS Corner appears in Schools and More the last Tuesday of the month.