- Associated Press - Sunday, November 8, 2015

DUBUQUE, Iowa (AP) - Thomas Jefferson Middle School officials have refocused efforts to get more parents to attend conferences.

“We can’t educate students by ourselves,” said Principal Kelly Molony. “We need the parents with us as partners.”

In Molony’s first year as principal at Jefferson, staffers sifted through parent-teacher conference data to improve attendance, she said.

Phone calls were made, e-mails were sent and information was posted on social media about conferences.

The Telegraph Herald reports (http://bit.ly/1LT1Dap ) Seventy-five percent of Jefferson’s 551 students scheduled conferences for Wednesday or Thursday. Last fall, just 57 percent of students attended.

“We’re pretty happy so far with our attendance,” Molony said. Percentages for this year do not include unscheduled drop-ins.

Families received three automatic phone calls and one mass e-mail requesting them to schedule parent-teacher conferences. This was the first year conferences were scheduled.

Those who did not schedule a conference received a personal phone call from a staff member. Molony said more than half of the students’ families received such a call.

Diane Conley, a grandmother to eighth-grade student Ashtan Carner, was pleasantly surprised to receive one of those calls.

“It was really nice. I had never talked to the principal before,” she said.

Ashtan’s grandmother and mother, DeeAnn Carner, attended conferences Thursday. The eighth-grader thought personal phone calls were a good idea.

“It’s good because kids don’t like to have their parents come to conferences,” Ashtan said.

There also was a concerted effort to reach out to families of nearly 90 seventh- and eighth-grade students who did not attend conferences last fall.

Molony called guardians of the eighth-graders, while designated teachers spent time Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday contacting seventh-graders’ guardians.

Amy Haverland, a sixth-grade science teacher, said she saw one student’s mother for the first time at conferences. Haverland also taught the student’s siblings in the past.

“That’s a great connection to make with the families and welcome them in,” she said.

While monitoring hallways, Molony also encouraged students to attend conferences to “share the great things you do here every day.”

Molony said conferences are not only important for parents to participate in their child’s education, but it’s also important for the students.

“The children know that their parents value education,” Molony said.

For some parents, unhappy memories of school might keep them away.

“We have to remember that and make this a welcoming place for parents,” Molony said.

___

Information from: Telegraph Herald, http://www.thonline.com

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