The Watertown public school district has found a new partner in its effort to improve overall family engagement, awareness, and participation in the community at large.
The Lynch School of Education (LSOE) will use its resources to understand exactly what Watertown needs and implement one of several initiatives to resolve any issues that are brought to light.
Both Lynch School Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Rebecca Lowenhaupt and Watertown Middle School Assistant Principal Jason Del Porto will be closely involved with the collection of information and proposals in the district.
“We started talking about this idea of connectivity,” Del Porto said in reference to meetings about the coalition. “Watertown is a very diverse community with a variety of different demographics. The district is interested that we are as connected to our students’ parents as we possibly can be.”
“Those conversations with the focus groups will be asking basic questions about their attitude toward the district. How do you feel about the schools? What would help you engage more? What are the events that you are interested in that we could have more of?”
Understanding the diversity of the population in Watertown is a key component to the research that the Lynch School will engage in. This data will help break down each cultural group, how it is involved in the community, and how it could be more engaged.
“The district was very interested in creating much closer connections with the community,” Lowenhaupt said. “The manhunt and Boston bombing sort of highlighted some potential cultural tensions in Watertown. The whole experience made it very important to have and improve strong relationships throughout the community.”
Del Porto said that they are interested to see how Boston College can help Watertown understand dynamics within the community in order to see what resources are necessary.
“How do we reach out to different groups of people and make them more comfortable with the school district?” Del Porto said.
To address this, the Lynch School has created a research team made up of Lowenhaupt, two doctoral students, and two undergraduates. The five will work on the initial analysis and report writing for the district. There will also be focus groups in Watertown, which will be run by LSOE undergraduates.
“Those conversations with the focus groups will be asking basic questions about their attitude toward the district,” Lowenhaupt said. “How do you feel about the schools? What would help you engage more? What are the events that you are interested in that we could have more of?”
The first thing that the Lynch School will be evaluating is the parent teacher conference coming up in the next month. The preliminary data will give Watertown a baseline of problems to gauge.
“We will be evaluating things like who signs up for the PTO, who comes to school committee meetings, and other kinds of parent-involved events to see where the problem is.” Del Porto said.
Several potential solutions would incentivize families to involve themselves more and make their voices heard, like encouraging teachers to do parent teacher conferences at home, Del Porto said.
Some of the principals in Watertown are using new interesting ways to draw more families to conferences, like inviting food trucks to parent-teacher conferences, Lowenhaupt said.
The district is interested in trying initiatives like these, but it needs money.
They can seek more grant funding if they have data and reports that specify the gaps in participating, Lowenhaupt said.
“The tighter the connection between the teacher, the parent, and the student, the more successful and high achieving the kids are,” Del Porto said. “I would like to see that people feel safe connecting to the district and feel like it’s a welcoming community to benefit the students.”
Featured Image by Watertown Public Schools