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Chapter 1
District Organization and Management

This chapter reviews the organization and management of Venus Independent School District (VISD) in the following sections:

  1. Board Governance
  2. District Management
  3. District Planning
  4. Community and Business Involvement


D. COMMUNITY AND BUSINESS INVOLVEMENT

Local school districts were established to fill the needs of their community, which includes students, parents, non-parent residents, taxpayers, businesses, other political subdivisions and special-interest groups. If the community is to respond appropriately to district needs and concerns, it must be well informed about issues facing the district. For this reason, districts need to disseminate information and to gather feedback from the community. Effective two-way communication enables school districts to gain the confidence, support and involvement of their local communities. Similarly, school districts need the support of local organizations and businesses to enhance educational programs. An active partnership and outreach program fosters the district’s relationship with the community and builds support for school activities.

VISD communicates with its parents and community in a variety of ways. Teachers and campuses communicate with parents through campus newsletters, notices to parents, individual teacher-parent conferences, school signs and campus Web sites. The VISD URL is www.venusisd.net. The Web site contains an event calendar for each of the four schools as well as district information about the board, administration, schools and school-year calendar. Links to Web sites that contain employment vacancies and applications, athletic activity schedules, band program information and information regarding the community library. In addition, academic-related tasks are posted also on the VISD Web site.

FINDING

The Joe A. Hall High School and Community Library, created through a partnership between the City of Venus and the school district, is located at the high school and serves both the school’s students and the community. The school-community library meets the criteria of the North Texas Regional Library System and the Texas State Library for public library status. As a result, VISD has been able to qualify for and obtain several grants that would not otherwise be available to a school library. The City of Venus contributes $1,000 annually to the facility’s operation. A director of libraries and three library aides staff the library.

Opened in 1994, the Venus High School and Community Library is one of the few combination high school and community libraries in Texas. The library’s selection and services compares to that of libraries in cities much larger than Venus. This combination allows VISD students the use of all resources of the high school library, plus the extra resources of a public library. The library has a completely automated circulation system, Internet access to the library catalogue, TEXSHARE databases, computer and copy services, popular periodicals and more than 14,500 books and videos. The library is open to the public from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday and from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday. The library Web site is http://www.venuslibrary.net.

COMMENDATION

The public library located at the high school serves students and community patrons in a beneficial partnership between the district and the City of Venus.

FINDING

Teachers and administrators perceive a lack of parental and community involvement in the schools. This was reflected in surveys of the teaching, administrative and support staff, in comments from the teacher focus group and in objective IVB of the board’s goals to increase the level of parental involvement. The only group that responded favorably to the survey question was the parent group with a 50-percent positive response and a 40-percent negative response. Survey responses to a question gauging the amount of volunteer involvement are indicated in Exhibit 1-11.

Exhibit 1-11
Parental and Community Involvement

Survey Question:
Schools have plenty of volunteers to help student and school programs
Results Strongly Agree Agree No Opinion Disagree Strongly Disagree
Teacher Survey 0% 10% 10% 42% 38%
Administrative and Support Staff Survey 0% 0% 33% 56% 11%
Parent Survey 0% 50% 10% 40% 0%
Source: VISD Teacher, Administrative and Support Staff, Parent Survey, 2003.

The perception of 80 percent of the teachers and the concern of the board that many parents and community members are not actively involved in the school supports staff and board comments from review team focus groups. The disparity between staff perceptions and parent opinions in the survey suggests that, while the majority of the staff wants more parent involvement, more than half of the parents feel that they are adequately involved. Parents can be involved with the schools in VISD through the activities and meetings of parent-teacher organizations (PTOs) at each school, through attendance at athletic and band booster club meetings and activities, at teacher-parent conferences and by volunteering for service at the schools.

A number of comments received by the review team during the on-site visit indicated strong concern regarding lack of parental and community involvement with VISD schools.

  • More parent involvement is needed.
  • No community involvement.
  • Athletic spectator participation is extremely low.
  • Lack of parent support at extracurricular activities

VISD’s formal effort to solicit volunteers exists in the parent, community and business membership on the district advisory committee (DAC) and the campus advisory committee (CAC) for each campus. The DAC meets monthly, with subcommittees meeting more often to make recommendations to the whole committee. Other volunteer efforts are coordinated at the campus level by each principal and the campus parent organization.

The non-staff membership of each CAC is comprised of two parents, two businesspersons and two community members; each CAC meets once a month for two hours. The CAC at each school is involved with development and review of the campus improvement plan.

In addition to staff members, one parent serves on the Language Parent Advisory Committee (LPAC) at each campus. The LPAC meets as needed for assessment and placement of students who are identified as limited English proficient (LEP) students. At the high school, nine volunteers serve on the Safe & Drug-Free Education advisory committee, 12 volunteers serve on the career and technology parent advisory committee and four volunteers serve on the health advisory committee.

The primary, elementary and middle schools have active PTOs that meet four to five times a year, with more frequent meetings of the PTO executive committees. Membership in the PTOs at the three schools is as follows:

  • the primary school PTO has 58 members with four on its executive committee;
  • the elementary school PTO has 86 members with four on its executive committee; and
  • the middle school PTO has 25 members with five on its executive committee.

The primary school has four to 10 volunteer campus helpers, four days a week for six hours a day. The volunteers read with students, help in the office, supervise students in the cafeteria and otherwise assist teachers and students. Every day, 10 volunteer high school students listen to students read.

At the elementary campus, three volunteers help with the school store for 45 minutes, two mornings a week. Fifteen parent volunteers accompany students on field trips; the school has eight scheduled field trips during the year. For the two classroom parties each year, two parent volunteers help in each of the 39 classrooms. Five parent volunteers assist with the school Field Day, and one to three parent volunteers help out in three school celebrations held during the school year.

The middle school has a volunteer drama coach for 10 practice sessions and three performances. The student council has seven volunteer sponsors for two one-hour meetings a month. Three volunteers operate the concession stand for three hours at 15 ball games a year. At the four school dances, four parents act as volunteer chaperones, and 12 parent volunteers help plan and host the grade 8 picnic.

The high school has a 20-member athletic booster club; 16 members man the football concession stands. The 32-member band booster club staffs the basketball concessions with 22 volunteers during the season. Twelve volunteers chaperone five school dances, and 34 volunteers help on Campus Career Day. A volunteer choir performance accompanist spends about 220 hours a year at all concerts and at solo and ensemble performances and competitions.

Getting input from the community, parents and staff in developing an effective school communication plan can lead to ownership of the plan by all stakeholders. There is no staff in-service on communications with parents and the community that fosters a positive school-parent partnership.

An effective district community involvement plan should include well-defined goals, measurable objectives and systematic evaluations. It should also outline roles and responsibilities and identify who will be responsible for achieving goals and objectives.

Grape Creek ISD (GCISD) has an active Volunteers in Public Schools (VIPS) program that involves parent and community volunteers. In 1999-2000, this district of about 1,200 students had 41 who contributed 343 volunteer hours in activities such as:

  • tutoring individual students;
  • helping kindergarten students take computer tests;
  • shelving library books;
  • assisting with school picture day;
  • running errands for the dental van;
  • assisting with vision and hearing screening;
  • assisting with the Parent Teacher Association (PTA); and
  • helping with University Interscholastic League sponsored activities.

GCISD and the PTA sponsor an awards luncheon each year to honor the volunteers. They also have formal training for new VIPS each fall, using materials from the National Association of Partners in Education, Inc., along with materials the district has purchased. The district trains teachers on how to use VIPS effectively in their classrooms.

Recommendation 8:

Develop a plan to strengthen the school-parent partnership in VISD and track and publish volunteerism statistics quarterly.

The more parents become involved with VISD schools, the more effective the schools will be in educating students. Positive school-home partnership is one of the correlates identified by Effective Schools research. Open communication and positive reinforcement of the school’s partnership with parents and the community in the education of their children should be a focus of VISD. A concerted effort by teachers and principals, in conjunction with each school’s PTO, can help reach parents who are not actively participating in school activities. More PTO activities involving students can support that effort. VISD’s emphasis on the school-parent partnership can be highlighted in a variety of ways. Parent newsletters, school meetings, board meetings, PTO meetings, booster club meetings, teacher-parent conferences and other opportunities for school-parent communications can help to foster and strengthen the bonds of the school-parent partnership in the VISD community.

IMPLEMENTATION STRATEGIES AND TIMELINE

1. The board appoints a committee of staff, parents and community members to identify and study issues that affect parental involvement in VISD. September 2003
2. The committee reports to the board its findings with suggestions on how to enhance parental involvement. November 2003
3. After obtaining committee input, the superintendent and the board develop a plan to strengthen the bonds of school-parent partnership in VISD. February 2004
4. The board formally adopts the plan and publicly recognizes the efforts of the committee in providing input. March 2004
5. The superintendent implements the plan. April 2004

FISCAL IMPACT

This recommendation can be implemented with existing resources.