A publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

FCPS’s Family University series emphasizes importance of parents in education experience

By Tammy L. Lane
Special to KyForward

The Fayette County Public School District’s Family University series partners with parents and other caregivers to actively foster students’ success.

That’s exactly what mom Jessica Hunter had in mind when she signed up for this year’s kickoff event.

“We just moved here in April (from Ohio), so we’re trying to get a feel for what the schools are all about,” she said as she pondered the day’s schedule. Hunter, who has one child at Tates Creek Middle and two at Tates Creek Elementary, leaned toward the sessions on new curriculum, current issues and trends, and learning guides for families.

In the media center at host Bryan Station High School, Soraya Matthews and colleagues in the district’s Curriculum, Instruction & Assessment office walked parents through the new K-12 curriculum, including enVision for math and Wonders and Collections for reading and language arts, and showed them how to access their children’s e-books.

Paula Whitmer, associate director in the Title I Office, explained how the compact is a mutual agreement among parents, student, and the school — all working toward classroom success. (Photo Provided)

“When we’re thinking about the whole child, we’re also talking about parent support at home,” Matthews said, adding, “The most powerful piece of the puzzle is parents.”

Meanwhile, in the trends session, Law Enforcement Director Lawrence Weathers offered insight on what today’s teenagers face at school and in the community.

“I don’t want to scare you, but I want you to be informed. It’s important for parents to be involved and talk with their kids,” he told the group, which left with seasoned advice and resources on bullying, gangs, social media, theft, and drugs.

Down the hall, math specialist Elizabeth Wright and her Title I colleagues talked about how the school, the parent, and the student make a compact or agreement outlining what each party will do to ensure success. Attendees also received a copy of the Learning Guide for Families, based on their child’s age (preschool through fifth grade), which offers tips such as reading at bedtime and counting with the child in the grocery store.

These guides describe what a student should know and be able to do at each grade level, which enables parents to be more in tune with school assignments and homework.

“It gives them an awareness, a connection, and a point of conversation,” as Wright said.

The other breakout options included a workshop on Infinite Campus and the Parent Portal; a session on how First 5 Lex’s “Read, Talk, Play” model can enhance school readiness; overviews of services and supports for students with autism and for English learners; and a session on the importance of the Individual Learning Plan as a tool for career exploration.

Pamela Bates, the college and career coach at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School, said families often don’t know they, too, can access their student’s ILP online.

“The main thing is getting in there and playing around and seeing what it’ll do. It opens up discussion about their planning and their thinking,” Bates said. “I want parents to understand the navigation of career choices. College is an option, but it could be the military or technical education.”

Before the adults fanned out to the breakout rotations, Superintendent Manny Caulk greeted the crowd in the auditorium and praised them for taking time out on a Saturday for Family University.

“It’s a day of learning and a day of fun. We’re all here for you,” Caulk said. “We want every student to experience victory in the classroom, and we know you share that same commitment. We truly want to build relationships with our families.”

The next installment of Family University is Dec. 9. Watch for details at fcps.net.

Tammy L. Lane is website editor for Fayette County Public Schools

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