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Collaboration Dinners Bring Together Staff, Parents

Located on a Maryland island that is only three miles long, Deal Island School has a population of 125 students in grades pre-K to 5. Parent involvement is essential in this tiny community and is promoted through a series of three parent/teacher collaborative dinners that mix food and fellowship.

Parents and teachers meet in small groups and then
reconvene to share ideas about helping students succeed.

A local caterer served dinner as parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community members socialized, reported Principal Karen Linamen. After dinner, daycare was provided for the students, who worked on homework or participated in leisure activities while the adults convened in another room. Adults divided into small groups that each discussed a series of questions:

  • What is the mission of Deal Island School?
  • What does a perfect school look like?
  • What does a perfect parent/teacher/student look like?

Next, the groups gathered together to share their insights, which were surprisingly similar. The participants discussed what they wanted for the students and wrote statements about the roles of each subgroup -- parents, teachers, and students -- to ensure that all students are successful.

"Because our mascot is a skipjack [boat], these statements were written on mini skipjacks and placed on a bulletin board for everyone to see," Linamen told Education World. "From this process came an action plan."

Students do homework or engage in other activities
under the supervision of caregivers.

The collaboration dinners reinforced the parents' understanding that the school at all times seeks to act in the children's best interest. Meaningful and lasting bonds were formed between parents, teachers, and the students. Linamen characterizes the transformation in these relationships as "incredible."

"In this economic time where there are budget cuts and job losses, it is crucial to utilize parents and community stakeholders as a resource for student success," she shared. "The school is the heart of the community, and we have wonderful parental involvement."

Linamen credits some of the school's achievements to the Somerset County Public Schools, which she says has the support of wonderful parents and community members, a central office staff that is supportive of new initiatives, and board members and a superintendent who care about each and every child in the system. Her exemplary staff members have gone the extra mile -- or in this case, the extra three miles -- to make Deal Island both a Blue Ribbon School and a nationally distinguished Title I school.

At the end of each night, an evaluation sheet is completed and the results of the evaluation are shared at the next meeting, added Linamen. "The first collaboration night was so popular that parents and teachers eagerly awaited the next one. At the end of the three dinners, the process was complete. There was a new collaborative mood in the school."


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