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Gold Medal Transition Fair
Posted on May 22, 2019, by GAPMP
Barrow County Mentor Ashley Ware shares her story about bringing transition service information to where the parents are.
Editor’s Note: This story offers examples of how the work parents mentors do in their districts is carefully designed to align with research based engagement practices such as, PTA Family Engagement Standards, the Georgia Model for Leading by Convening and Stakeholder Engagement tools (ASPIRE). Scroll down for research based tools referred to here.
The Barrow County Schools Transition Team met in September and discussed how our parent engagement, especially when it came to transition, was lacking. We would hold parent events in the past that were not well attended. We all just said we need to stop reinventing the wheel because no one is attending our new “wheel”. Instead of the parents coming to us, let’s go to them. We bounced around the idea of using the Special Olympics games as a time to engage parents, because we knew they would already be there. The team decided to add in a few “perks” for parents as well by providing free coffee to athletes and parents attending the games. This is another tool we can use to get parents to our community tables and another way we can serve our parents and we are honored to do so.
Standard 1: Welcoming Families into the School Community By creating an event which parents already felt comfortable attending, transition teams could offer a way to swing the door to the school open a little wider for parents to come and support their children but also do some services and supports learning in an unstructured and unpressured way.
We had 10 outside organizations set up around the basketball court and our emcee would often encourage the parents to go visit the tables. The organizations included Extra Special People(ESP), Java Joy, GVRA, Parent2Parent, New Generations, and some of Barrow County’s programs, such as the YES program. We also had a table set up with laptops so parents could take the Georgia Parent Satisfaction Survey. We really wanted our parent survey participation numbers to go up, and we quadrupled our numbers from last year, so having the laptops there was a huge benefit.
Standard 2: Communicating Effectively By having the agencies there in person to talk to parents one on one, families could learn at their own pace, ask questions pertinent to their child’s situation and gather information for future reference.
Our transition team is made up of me as Parent Mentor, Special Education coordinator for our high schools Amy Wadley, several of the special education teachers, including the department chairs from both high schools, and a few community organizations, like the Rotary Club and Extra Special People.
Standard 6: Collaborating with the Community This project allowed so many support and service agencies to come together around an already successful, empowering and positive activity, Special Olympics.
Our goal is to connect outside transition agencies with families. We want our students and parents to know that there is life after high school and there are organizations ready to work with them. Many of them told us that day they had no idea that their child had options once they left our system. It was so rewarding to see ideas and contact information exchanged. We gave parents an opportunity to meet the agencies who can really help them in the coming years and it was great being a part of that!
Standard 3: Supporting Student Success When parents are better informed about things such as, programs and services for post secondary transition, they can be much more effective and active in the transition planning discussions at their child’s IEP meeting.
Plan early and have one or two point people. In Barrow, the high special education coordinator and I worked closely together to think about who we wanted to invite. I then drafted a letter inviting all of them. I put the agencies who said yes in a group email about a month in advance, then two weeks in advance, then a few days before the event. The email gave them all the particulars and expressed our gratitude for their willingness to join us in this effort. Amy Wadley and I were both on hand to handle any issues, welcome our guests and help them set up and break down.
Leading by Convening Authentic Stakeholder Engagement: The process Ashley describes here fits in with the Informing Best Practices which includes things like: deciding who will receive the information, how it will be distributed, what data will you collect (in this case participation numbers) and what goals do you have (increasing Parent Satisfaction Survey participation).
After the event, I sent another email thanking them and invited them to have a table at our spring games. I was very proud of our efforts and I think the parents really appreciated having the opportunity to meet with these community partners.