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Va. Superintendent Initiates a System-Wide Involvement Approach

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The Lynchburg City Schools in Virginia recently rolled out a new "Give Me Five" program that is already producing results in terms of parent involvement—and local publicity.

Lynchburg City Schools asks every parent of every child for the following:

• 5 MINUTES—or more of reading to your child and/or conversation about school with your child every day.
• 5 HOURS—or more of volunteer service to your child's school each year.
• 5 DAYS—or more of attendance at school events.
• 5 DOLLARS—or more to the school's PTO
• 5 CLASSES—or more of schooling beyond high school.

This last goal—asking parents to go to class themselves—is supported with the following statement: "A GED or high school diploma is encouraged of every parent, and if they don't have one, LCS has programs to help you get one."

Dr. Scott S. Brabrand, LCS superintendent, says parent involvement is on the rise. One school that had only 25 volunteers last year already has signed up 50.

As is the case in many districts, all LCS volunteers must submit an application this year and undergo a background check, even if the parent or community member has volunteered in the schools before. The background check is free. (Other school districts, strapped for funds, have begun charging volunteers for these checks.)

The program has already attracted some media interest, including coverage by television stations WSET and WDBJ.

Brabrand decided to implement "Give Me Five" because he wanted to initiate a system-wide approach to increasing involvement, rather than a school-by-school approach.

"The Give Me Five idea I had seen in the division I was in before. Fairfax County used Give Me Five to get more business involvement. They had specific ideas for what businesses could do," explained Brabrand, who was assistant superintendent in the Fairfax County Public Schools until taking over at LCS in April 2012.

"We took the concept of Give Me Five and applied it to parent involvement here in Lynchburg. It really isn't about us doing anything new. It's about a systems approach," he said. "We'd been asking each school to come up with their own way to get parents involved. I think we needed a division-wide program. Give Me Five is an 'umbrella' of taking all the great ideas schools have been doing and making sure we have a systems approach that utilizes best practices," Brabrand explained.

"We know research says parents want their kids to go to schools and be happy in schools. And they want to know whether other parents are involved. So, we're very excited about the campaign and hope it continues to go well this year," he said.

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