This past summer twenty people came together at the Glendale/Mountainview CLC for the School-Community Partnership Design Circle.
Half were parents from Salt Lake City’s west side neighborhoods, which are home to diverse communities of immigrant and refugee background, over 100 languages, and most of the city’s Title 1 schools. The other half were educators from those same schools: administrators, teachers, counselors, and family advocates. The shared goal was to improve collaboration between schools and families in the Salt Lake City School District. Specifically, participants were charged with redesigning one of Utah’s key spaces for parent voice and engagement: the School Community Council (SCC).
SCCs are school-site decision making bodies made up of educators and parents. They are tasked with developing and monitoring an annual School Improvement Plan, focused on key academic and non-academic priorities. Improvement plans are ultimately approved by the local school board. SCCs are also charged with keeping the community informed about progress, and supporting digital citizenship.
The SCC was envisioned as a site for equitable parent-educator collaboration. It is designed to be a space in which parents have a direct role in making decisions about academic issues. When it is working well, it can be a powerful example of true school-community collaboration. Unfortunately, many schools on Salt Lake City’s west side have struggled to fulfill this vision. Parents and educators face an array of barriers to effective collaboration. These include language and cultural differences, fear and mistrust, and institutional systems that impede collaboration. In response to repeated calls for support, a group was brought together to collectively and creatively address this issue. The group was made up of experts in parent-educator collaboration: parents and educators themselves.
The School-Community Partnership Design Circle is part of a national research project called the Family Leadership Design Collaborative (FLDC) based out of the University of Washington College of Education. Through participatory design-based research, the FLDC is supporting efforts around the country that re-center family voice and transform educational systems. The Salt Lake City design circles were facilitated by Dr. Gerardo López, Professor and Chair of the Department of Education Leadership and Policy at the University of Utah College of Education. Partners included the Salt Lake City School District’s Office of Family-School Collaboration, UNP, and the Community Advocate Network.
Over the course of three weeks, Design Circle participants developed a set of guidelines for making SCCs more welcoming, inclusive, and effective, including how to:
- Create a welcoming, community-oriented environment
- Develop an inclusive process for incorporating parent and educator voice
- Engage in regular communication and reciprocal learning
Click HERE to download the group’s report. Please share widely. More products and projects are in the works. If you would like to know more, or get involved, please contact Dr. López at firstname.lastname@example.org.