Schools in the Waterloo region are set to benefit from the McGuinty government’s effort to increase parental involvement within their children’s schools, also known as Parents Reaching Out (PRO) grants.
In the Waterloo Region alone, 57 PRO grants worth $43,664 will be distributed, including two local schools: St. Teresa of Avila Catholic elementary school, which will receive a $600 grant, and John Mahood Public School, which will receive $1,000.
St. Teresa has already earmarked the funds to pay for Errol Lee, a motivational speaker and musician who appeared at the school back on Sept. 21.
“He had an assembly for the entire student body,” explained Shelley Deyell, the head of the parent council at St. Teresa. “Then in the afternoon he broke off and did workshops with the older students, and then in the evening we invited the parents to come and he did a concert for us based on the same information.”
The talk and the concert that Lee gave at the school was the kick-off to a program called “Celebrating Differences.” The events will carry on throughout the year, said Deyell, and each week one of the school’s students will be recognized for doing something that stands out in the teachers’ eyes. That student gets a “Be the Change” pin, and a note is sent home to their parents to explain what their deed was.
“What the school wants to do is it wants to make sure that we celebrate everybody’s differences, whether it’s race, religion, different coloured hair, different abilities, and that kind of thing.”
At John Mahood, they intend to use their grant to help fund a number of initiatives, including math and science nights for kids, and a lending-library for parents, but a lot of the emphasis will be on producing an information handbook for parents that are new to the area.
“Last year when we did the parent information night we just had a few little pamphlets for parents,” said Jasmine Roth, the head of the school’s parent council. “But this time we will be able to put all the information down, where to meet people, who to contact and stuff like that.”
The goal is to distribute the booklets to new parents in the school, and throughout the entire community. They aim to help new parents become integrated into the community and to provide helpful information such as important contacts, athletics in the area, and other useful information to someone who might be new to the area.
“We just found a lot of times when you come into a community such as ours where everybody knows everybody, it’s hard to meet new people and especially if you’re not involved in anything big like hockey or nursery school,” explained Roth.
Work on the booklets will begin in November and December, and the new parent information night is slated for May 2011.
Roth said the school is very grateful for the grant, and that most of the projects they have planned would not have been possible without it due to the costs of new playground equipment, and the decline in fundraising over the past few years.
“We probably would not have been able to implement the lending-library or the science and math night. We’re really excited to have the opportunity, and hopefully it encourages more people to get involved in the school community. That’s our main goal.”
Since 2006, the government has handed out more than 7,000 grants to school councils across the province, and made a total investment of over $12 million.