This post was written by LEV Organizer Brooke Valentine.
For the past six years Washington state has had a unique office of government supporting families with school age children, the Office of the Education Ombudsman. Founded during the 2006 legislative session, their mission is to promote equity in education and support the ability of public school students to fully participate and benefit from public education. This past year in a bold, proactive move, the OEO has decided to take their show on the road, and engage district staff, community organizations, and families in the communities they live and work in. It seems the OEO had a vision of families and schools working together in a stronger partnership in order to support student success. In order to support this vision, they created the Finding your Voice Parent Institute.
Last November I was able to attend the Finding Your Voice training hosted in the Yakima Valley. For two days I studied alongside school district staff and community leaders as we learned about the value of engaged parents and families. We learned how to strengthen families by providing ground level information on topics from discipline to bullying all while creating a basic understanding of Washington’s public school system. The presentations were rooted deeply in creating trusting and respectful relationships, emphasizing solid communication between communities, schools, and home. A huge piece of respecting families is valuing the family culture, their language, and heritage. We have to value, understand, and respect what each family can bring to the table.
The Finding Your Voice training really comes full circle on the third day, the trainer-led parent summit. At the summit, everyone who attended the two day training gets to practice what they have learned. The format and curriculum of the entire three day training is right on target. The OEO creates a space where success means effectively communicating with families and community members. It also gives the presenters the tools to teach families the system, and learn with them how to be better communicators.