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What's Working in New Hampshire - Parent and Staff Partnerships

Photo Courtesy of Marni Fennessy

Over the past 8 months since the Mom Congress, many of the delegates have been highlighting what’s working on their particular state’s level; however, currently my most passionate issue is refocusing the importance of Parental Partnerships on the local level.   

After a period of falling Adequate Yearly Progress scores coupled with negative press, it was evident to my community here in Farmington, NH that something needed to change.   After initial evaluation, it was discovered that administration and staff were expecting one thing from the parents and students, and in turn, the parent population had entirely different expectations of the staff…with absolutely NO communication between the two.

PAWWS (Parents at Work With Staff) was quickly formed.  PAWWS is a core group of administration, staff and parent representatives and our main objective is to indirectly improve standardized test scores such as NeCap (New England Common Assessment Program) and NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) by directly bridging the gaps in communication between families, teachers, and administration.  PAWWS does this in many ways. For example, PAWWS sponsors such events as Summer Literacy celebrations, Family Math nights and Title 1 Parent Information Nights.  (It has been found that parents are more likely to work alongside WITH the staff if they are aware of what the main objective is and how it benefits their son or daughter.)  In addition, events like “Boo-Hoo Breakfasts” on the first morning of Kindergarten allow parents to make friends, familiarize themselves with support staff, and are greeted with an “open door” feeling. Events like these are important so that parents are aware of the importance of partnerships that are now crucial in our school district. Over the course of 5 years, this has not only increased test scores at our K-3 school, but has increased the overall positive environment in the school building and community.  The positive outreach and importance of these small, local groups cannot be undervalued.

I believe any form of volunteering and advocacy is imperative in our educational system today. Although our ultimate goals are to take the negatives to Washington D.C. and make them positives for all, we can’t forget about the hardworking, dedicated people left “in the trenches” that are all too often overlooked.   Much like building a tower with children’s building blocks, nothing will get achieved at our higher state and federal levels if communities aren’t using their local advocates as solid foundations.   

One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about the Mom Congress experience has been bringing my new knowledge and ideas back to my local parents and the staff here in Farmington, NH.  While I was in Washington ready to take on the world, parents and staff were here toiling away at that next event, that next crucial building block that would make a difference in our district’s parents and students lives.

Marni Fennessy feels blessed to have participated in the 2011 Mom Congress as the Delegate from NH. It has been a great experience and one that she knows will not just disappear or end, but will continue to be an adventure that will unfold and unravel in many different directions thanks to ALL the incredible women that are involved in the cause.  Marni is a full time wife; a full time mom to four daughters ages 11, 9, 5 and 3; a full time volunteer; and a full time student of Theology.  Marni is tired full time.