Parent Engagement Coordinator highlights progress points this year

Photo by Crystal Apilado/Winters Express

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The Winters Joint Unified School District’s Parent engagement coordinator shared updates from the school year at the April 6 school board meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Phoebe Girimonte introduced Maricarmen Suárez, the parent engagement coordinator who “works closely with the community to support student success and parent/guardian engagement with a focus on special populations (i.e. English learners, youths in foster care or experiencing homelessness, etc.).”

Suárez began her presentation on the work she’s done over the past months by discussing the development of the Family Resource Center, a facility that provides a number of services to families in the community. This includes an affordable connectivity program that, “gives families some aid so they can have access to affordable internet at home,” as well as translation and interpretation services and applications with jobs and FAFSA scholarships. 

Suárez discussed the volunteering process for Winters JUSD, with Suárez saying she “worked with (human resources) to streamline the process and also to centralize the location for volunteering documentation” ensuring documents can be found at every school site and at the district office in both English and Spanish. 

Grant funding, translation needs
Suárez talked about working with parents regarding the Growing Strong Learners Grant, meeting with parents at events and with the Preschool Parent Advisory Committee about their thoughts on the topic. She also said she is working with the Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE) working with middle and high school students. 

Suárez shared the transitional kindergarten and kindergarten enrollment numbers for the next school year, which are currently 24 for TK and 61 for kindergarten, of which she noted 45 are applying for the Dual Language Immersion Program. 

In the discussion of interpretation and translation, Suárez highlighted the “huge need” for these services across the district, from IEP interpretation at school sites to individual translation during meetings with parents. 

Regarding chronic absenteeism, Suárez said she has been working with parents of Winters High School students about what they thought could help the situation, reporting that they mentioned:

“transportation, the need for students to feel a sense of belonging, and also having more teachers who are trained or are bilingual.” 

Suárez concluded by laying out her goals for the future, saying that “the Family Resource website needs some work” in improving and centralizing it. She also hopes to “revamp” the Family Resources Center with workshops on more specific topics, as well as to continue  “to include and encourage a diverse group of parents to participate in the decision making.”

Following the presentation, Trustee Joedy Michael asked Suárez about the logistics of how school district demographers reach out to underrepresented communities for feedback, as well as if she had noted any particular hesitancies or barriers preventing parents from putting their kids through early childhood education programs.

Suárez said she felt families were “open” to TK, and said she was planning to go to Yolo Housing to reach out to families about the topic. 

Assistant Superintendent Girimonte said, “(Suárez) came in mid-year and…she had large shoes to fill, and she has really risen to the occasion.”

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