Column: Building bridges to school and community
By Sharon Johnson, District 518 WORTHINGTON -- Change and times of transition can be both exciting and challenging. That is usually the case for students and families as they make the transition from one school building to the next. Recently, Dis...
By Sharon Johnson, District 518
WORTHINGTON - Change and times of transition can be both exciting and challenging. That is usually the case for students and families as they make the transition from one school building to the next.
Recently, District 518 offered Transition meetings for parents and guardians of students who will be advancing to a different school building in the fall. Family Liaisons and School Counselors collaborated to host the Transition meetings, which provided information and gave families the opportunity to ask questions. The purpose of the meetings is to help families make a smooth transition through timely communication and positive connections with staff members who can assist them during the transition.
In May, staff facilitated Transition meetings in English, Spanish, and Karen. This year, eighty families participated in the Transition meeting at Worthington Middle School. Forty-seven families participated in the Transition meeting at Worthington High School. We were pleased with the attendance rate and that parents chose to pro-actively seek information that will help their children through their transition to a new building next year.
In addition to the Transition meetings, Family Liaisons facilitate seven-week PASS classes. During the 2017-2018 school year, they offered five PASS classes with 59 parents participating. Additionally, the Family Liaisons help families with completing forms, arranging parent-teacher meetings, conducting home visits and answering questions.
Family Liaisons and Community Connectors are bilingual staff members who connect families with relevant information and resources. Although both programs are part of Community Education, the focus of the two programs is different. Community Connectors help people connect with a wide range of community resources including employment, health care, housing, financial assistance, adult education, transportation and more. Family Liaisons focus more narrowly on assisting families with understanding and navigating the K-12 school system.
During 2017, Community Connectors served 602 unduplicated clients. Some of their most common Community Connector tasks included helping people enroll in Adult Basic Education classes, providing information about the Child & Teen Health Check-up program, referring families to early childhood programs, helping people prepare for driving tests and interpreting written communication from state and federal agencies.
Currently, we have five bilingual people, each working part-time in the Community Connector and Family Liaison department: Nelson Bonilla, Coordinator; Sawstephen Lah Dew, Pilar Hartshorn, Zipporah Hlaing, and Adry Stafford, Family Liaisons. Community Connectors and Family Liaisons accept drop-in appointments at the West Learning Center, room 134. They may also be contacted by calling Community Education at 376-6105.
Sharon Johnson is District 518’s community education director.