In 2017, NAIS published this piece titled “Beyond the Open House: How Schools Makes Parent Engagement Fun & Effective” in their Independent Ideas blog. SAIS member Randolph School is featured so we contacted them for an update on parent engagement strategies during COVID.

At Randolph School, Adam Bernick, director of institutional advancement, says although the parent association “has provided opportunities for parents to bring cookies to music concerts and work in the concession booth at athletic contests, it lacked engagement in programming and sincere partnerships with school administrators.”

So, the school developed a parent leadership team, which encompasses its four divisions, each grade level, and the areas of admissions, academics, arts, athletics, and hospitality. This team is part of an executive committee, the chairperson of which sits on the school’s board of trustees. Each parent leader works closely with a school administrator to find ways to advocate and support that administrator’s scope of work for students. The army of parents offers input on parent schedules, attitudes about parent-school relations, and how to involve more fathers. They also communicate with other parents, and, especially, solicit funds. (Because of their numbers, each parent is asked to contact just a handful of prospective donors.)

Throughout the pandemic, the parent leadership team and the wider parent association have become critically important to the work of the school. As groups of parents have had less access to campus, the parent leadership team holds forth with zoom meetings and outdoor receptions to engage new families and to support students and faculty members in meaningful ways.

There are four key aspects to the work of the parent association:

  • boosting volunteerism
  • promoting parent education
  • providing parent engagement
  • strengthening school spirit

Although the work looks different from pre-COVID times, the efforts of the parent association have made onboarding new families and sustaining student programs a priority. With fewer organic face-to-face interactions between school administrators and parents, the parent leadership team has been a dynamic force for sustaining connections and strengthening community.