By Sarah Hall
When kids go from elementary school to the higher levels, information tends to slow from a deluge to a trickle.
“We rely more and more on the children being able to convey information to the parents,” said Richard Chapman, executive director of K-8 Education for the Liverpool Central School District. “I’ve had my own children go through Liverpool, and I’ve experienced what a lot of people share as their children get older.”
To shore up that communication, on June 7, the district will host its first Parent University at Liverpool Middle School. The informational session, which runs from 7 to 8 p.m., entitled “Internet Safety – Keeping Children Safe” will feature experts from The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Chapman said Parent University is designed to help improve communication between the district and the community.
“Really, we’re hoping it provides an opportunity to share information on topics that affect students and their families, and also trickle into the schools and the learning environment in each of the 14 buildings within our district,” Chapman said. “Sometimes we need to do a little bit of a better job and need to improve upon how much information we do provide our parents, and help bridge that gap between the home and school and just increase that communication piece. That’s what we’re looking to do here.”
Chapman said he’s looking to schedule sessions about once a month, though he may make them more often If topics come up that are of interest to the community.
“We’re developing a calendar,” he said. “It’ll incorporate a mixture of special education sessions, general education sessions, and then really also we want to keep it flexible for those hot topics.”
Hot topics like internet safety, which is the focus of the first session on Thursday.
“Internet safety right now is something we hear about a lot, just with what goes on with the schools and some of the information students put on the internet,” Chapman said. “It makes them vulnerable in some instances.”
Chapman said another Parent University will also likely discuss the mental health services offered by the district.
“We have our school-based mental health center,” he said. “I definitely see a Parent U where we talk about the services we offer. And then we’ll be working with Dr. Drake to really create a partnership between the pediatricians in the area and hopefully the area schools and better provide services. I think Parent U would be a nice platform to get that information out to the community.”
The bulk of the ideas for sessions will come from the schools themselves, Chapman said, though suggestions from the community are welcome — he wants to add a suggestion box feature to the district’s website.
The format of the sessions will be much more flexible than, say, board of education meetings, which must follow a very strict format.
“Board meetings are very formal,” Chapman said. “They have the rules that restrict how much community members can share topics at board meetings. Our format would be less formal.”
That flexibility will allow for a wider range of topics to be discussed.
“At some presentations, they’ll be lecture style,” Chapman said. “Others will be more — I almost picture them as a TED Talk-style. Others will be interactive. It will really depend on the topic being presented at each of those sessions.”
Chapman said he hopes to see Parent University take off in the district.
“I think this is a good start for us. Hopefully a year from now we’re talking again and trying to figure out how we need to find a bigger venue for all our Parent U’s,” he said. “That would be wonderful.”
The first Parent University takes place from 7 to 8 p.m. Thursday, June 8, at Liverpool Middle School, 720 Seventh St., Liverpool.