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coordinating classroom volunteers: would this help the schools?

Original post made by Sandy, Mohr Park, on Jun 6, 2009

I know that many parents volunteer in classrooms in the district. I wonder, though, how equitable that process is, if volunteers are only recruited classroom by classroom.

Some teachers have lots of volunteers one year, and almost none the next, depending on the availability of the parents in that particular classroom. So there are big differences from one classroom to the next. Is that a problem worth fixing?

What if there was an interactive web-based software program where community members could sign up, indicate the hours during the week when they were available to volunteer, and say what experience they have?

For instance, I volunteered this school year one hour every other week in the library, and one hour every other week in the classroom when the kids worked on math. Given my background, though, it might make more sense to have me work on math with kids every week -- and I might be willing to put in more than 1 hour, if my volunteering was all on the same day. And I would certainly be willing to volunteer in other classrooms, if I knew that my daughter's class would also have access to volunteers that best supported the teacher's needs at that time.

A web-based program that made the process of matching volunteers with classrooms easier could increase the total number of volunteer hours.

What do you think? Worth exploring, or not worth the headaches?

Comments (18)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 6, 2009 at 11:54 am

Sandy, I seem to recall that at one time, local companies (big and small) allowed employees to volunteer some of their time to the schools. Senior citizens have been asked in the past as well. My only worry then is what current practices are for working in the schools (fingerprinting for example). It may be something PTAs could coordinate, but the clearance process would have to remain with the district office, I'm sure. Before much can move forward, I would think the requirements for being allowed to volunteer have to be clear to the community before they can volunteer. My next question is how you coordinate people who wish to volunteer, but can only do so on an irregular basis and not weekly as you have been able to do.

It certainly is a good idea and worth further study (shouldn't take much to get the necessary information) to determine how to coordinate the effort.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by PToWN94566
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2009 at 5:24 pm

PToWN94566 is a registered user.

Sandy and Kathleen you both bring up important issues when it comes to volunteering in the classroom. This fall I'll have to volunteer at least 60 hours in the classroom per requirements for my B.A and then come spring time, student teach. For instances such as myself, I have to provide the school with documentation of the school I'm attending; I would think it's the elementary school's responsibility to check up on this to ensure that a college volunteer is attending the school he/she says. With parents, one would think that they are "clear" to work in the room.

Sandy I like your idea of having a web based program where teachers can post what hours they need while parent/volunteers can sign up as they wish. I could have done my volunteer hours this past April, but the 3/4 teachers I contacted never returned my calls.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 6, 2009 at 7:10 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Sandy,

CiviCRM allows organization and management of volunteer hours too.


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Posted by He teacher
a resident of Foothill High School
on Jun 6, 2009 at 8:14 pm

We could use volunteers at the he level but we rarely have any.


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Posted by teacher
a resident of Amador Valley High School
on Jun 6, 2009 at 8:30 pm

I think it would be great at the high school level, too! It would be nice to have the help, and also nice to have parents see what we do on a daily basis :)


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Posted by Get Educated
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2009 at 9:18 pm

Kathleen, in order to volunteer in the classroom, parents only need to fill out a form for a background check. The processing time takes a couple of weeks- in the beginning of the school year it takes awhile because of the large number of forms being processed. Good ideas here....


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Posted by ???
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm

I heard that parent volunteers are generally not welcomed in middle school classrooms. Is that true? If so, why and how can we change that?

I can't understand why middle school teachers want to discourage parents' involvement in the classrooms when many of us hold advanced degrees in specialized fields.


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Posted by Just some info
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 6, 2009 at 9:52 pm

Get educated and others,

"parents" is the key word to the volunteer slip. If your child/dependant in enrolled "all" you need is a volunteer form processed by the PPD. Also a clear TB test.

Those that are not "attached" to a current student usually need a little more documentation.

In order to work in the public schools you need DOJ clearance, of course, which applies to anyone working (student teacher or not).

Where I am not certain, are those community/business members of Pleasanton that just want to do a good deed. The volunteer slip seems a little light, while the DOJ seems better.


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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Amberwood/Wood Meadows
on Jun 6, 2009 at 10:18 pm

Stacey is a registered user.

Sandy,

I've set up a development environment at pwtsb.dev3.webenabled.net with Drupal and CiviCRM to show what is possible. If you are interested, please email me at amberwood.blogger@gmail.com We can do some initial set up and then any Pleasanton non-profit that wants to take it over is welcome to it.


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Posted by I've also been turned away
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2009 at 7:14 am

I am also a parent that stopped volunteering after the middle school discouraged me. They did not have a system set up similar to the elementary school where you had your day and time all set up.

Seems like in the past, the only volunteering the middle school and high school wanted is for special work parties like putting together registration packets, or special events like teacher recognition days. Even then, it was the PTSA or PTA that organized it.

Life goes on in the meantime and a routine is set up; it's hard to take a day off when it's only a now & then type of a deal.

I would have loved to have given a day or two in the middls school and high school when my kids were there. I have three degrees and some incredible experience to bring to a teacher's office or classroom. I don't want to teach, but I certainly can grade papers beyond 5th grade spelling tests, and I can file or proctor make-up exams.

It's too late for me to help now, but maybe the high school will make is easier for parents who have the time and desire to help out and for community members to get back into the schools. We all want buy-in to the education community.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 7, 2009 at 7:45 am

Stacey -- I emailed you!

Thanks to all for your comments. Of course, having volunteers go through security checks is important.

I especially appreciate the comments about middle school and high school. I'm not there yet, so my experience is only with elementary school. Before we came to Pleasanton, we were in a parent-participation school, so I'm used to seeing more parent volunteers in the classroom. It does require some creative thinking from teachers about how to involve volunteers in meaningful ways.

I would imagine that at middle school and high school levels, there are also ways that parent volunteers could be helpful with club activities after school -- I can tell that a lot of parents are involved in supporting sports teams, and I'm sure that there are other clubs also.

Perhaps I can do some research about whether this idea would be meeting a felt need, by talking with teachers and principals. I don't want to invest too much effort if this would not add much value.

Still, there seems to be some potential here.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Julie
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 7, 2009 at 10:19 am

Julie is a registered user.

I volunteered a lot when my kids were in elementary school, but have never done so in middle or high school (except field trips or book fairs). I never got the idea volunteers were welcome - particularly at the high school level. Every year I introduce myself via email to every teacher and invite them to let me know if they need my help. Other than field trips I've never been contacted. I remember at the elementary level that even starting in 4th grade, some teachers were not into having parents help out in the classroom.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Liz
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 7, 2009 at 12:20 pm

I find the comment about being turned away by the middle school interesting. Last year HPMS had two teachers that were in need of parent volunteers to work specific times and days, with the student's in the classroom. Granted, the notice went through the PTA volunteers, yet the positions went unfilled. So there is some need at the middle school level. The PTA or PTSA volunteer coordinators should look at this as a volunteer area going into the 2009/10 school year.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2009 at 8:38 am

To Kathleen Ruegsegger:

Do you have kids in the school? I seem to remember you never went to a board meeting, campaigned silently against measure G and now here you are trying to seem like you care about the schools.

Are your kids in school? If not, why do you not move on and let the schools figure things out since you obviously don't care.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by sandy
a resident of Mohr Park
on Jun 8, 2009 at 8:48 am

Resident --

60% of Pleasanton's households do not include school-age children. But any adults in those houses do still get to vote. And we need them to support our public schools, too! Community involvement is something to welcome, not to discourage.

If you don't want to listen to Kathleen's ideas, then don't. But please don't try to shut her up. Reasoned debate is an important way of generating new ideas that will work, and Kathleen has made constructive suggestions.

For the record, her children are grown, and she has a grandchild of school age who lives in Pleasanton. She obviously cares about the issues facing the schools.

I care also. Kathleen and I did not reach the same conclusions about measure G, but it makes no more sense to exclude her from public dialogue than it would make to exclude me, or you. It is only as a community, working together, that we will be able to find the best ways to support our schools through this funding crisis created by the economy.


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Posted by Parent
a resident of Bridle Creek
on Jun 8, 2009 at 11:02 am

To volunteer in a classroom you do not need a TB test- that is only if you are an employee of the district.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Kathleen Ruegsegger
a resident of Vintage Hills Elementary School
on Jun 8, 2009 at 12:40 pm

Resident, I was not silent or anonymous. I care deeply about our schools and education. I have been involved as a parent, volunteer, grandparent, board member, and continue to work in K-12 education. I've learned much worth sharing--and it certainly is your right or that of anyone else to disagree with my opinion.

I stated before that as taxpayers, we are all customers of the district and as such, you don't get to raise the price of the product $18 million without a few questions and some scrutiny.

Sandy, thank you. I appreciate the dialog and the conversation about long term solutions.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by different resident
a resident of Another Pleasanton neighborhood
on Jun 8, 2009 at 10:15 pm

I don't think Kathleen should be silenced at all. Quite the opposite. Since she was one of the most vocal members of the obstructionist minority that stopped Measure G from passing, I absolutely think the ball is in her court to advocate for an alternate solution!


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