It’s that time of year again. Backpacks are still clean, the storm of papers has not descended and you’re flush with ideas for quick healthy breakfasts and lunches. You may also be thinking about ways to engage with your child’s school. Whether your goal is to stay informed, lend a helping hand or connect with other parents, there are lots of opportunities to become involved.

Get Involved

• Volunteering in the Classroom
In elementary schools, there are abundant opportunities to help in the classroom, from weekly assistance in the classroom to the occasional field trip, parents are an essential and welcome part of the school community. Typically, volunteer needs are communicated at Back to School Night, but you can also check with your classroom teacher.

In middle and high school, the needs shift a bit. Parents are welcomed by the school staff, but you might find that your fledgling adolescent is less excited about seeing mom or dad at school. Your student’s teachers may appreciate help – contact them directly. Also, check with your principal and watch your school newsletter for chances to help with special activities like the yearbook, clubs and organizations or ongoing needs like lunchtime supervision. Athletics, music and art departments often have needs for parent assistance as well.

• Principal’s Meetings

Most principals host monthly or quarterly gatherings. This is a great time to make a connection with your child’s principal and to get up to date on the latest happenings and issues at your school. These are usually informal events, often held first thing in the morning. Watch your school newsletter and marquee for dates and times.

• PTA/Home and School Club
The function of the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) varies from school to school, but in general they are parent organizations that raise funds to support programs and activities at your child’s school. If you’re looking to connect with other parents, this is a great place to start. PTA (sometimes called the Home and School Club) meetings are often held monthly, usually in the evenings. Check with your school office to find out when your school’s group will meet. Principals or assistant principals usually attend PTA meetings, and they are often a good forum to discuss an issue or concern facing the school. Most PTAs have standing or special event committees looking for people able to do jobs large and small.

• Site Council
A Site Council is an elected group of parents, teachers and staff that acts like a mini-school board for just your school. The Site Council is responsible for how money is allocated, develops and refines the school plan each year, sets goals for student achievement and monitors progress. Serving on your school Site Council will give you a crash course in education policy and funding; yet it is generally not too time consuming. Site Councils usually meet monthly, often in the afternoon, after school is out.

English Language Advisory Committees meet on every campus. Comprised of staff, teachers and parents, ELAC reviews and addresses the needs of our English language learning students. There is also a DLAC group that meets regarding district-wide issues concerning English language acquisition.

Stay Informed
Here are resources for keeping up with your school, as well as general education news.

• Your School News
Most schools send out a newsletter quarterly, monthly or more frequently. If your child’s backpack does not produce one, contact your school office to pick up a fresh copy. Some schools have up-to-date websites with current calendars and news; check out the links to the right of this page for your school’s Website. PTA or Home and School Clubs often have active email lists and/or their own newsletter. Attend a PTA meeting or contact your school office to get on email and newsletter distribution lists.

• Santa Cruz City Schools District News
For a broader picture of events and issues in our schools, there is occasional coverage in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, The Good Times, Metro Santa Cruz, the Mid-County Post and Growing Up in Santa Cruz. The Sentinel has launched a “networking” site where schools and school organizations post events. This is not “news” per se – all the information is provided by the organizations, not the newspaper. Of course, return to The Eddy often for relevant coverage of our local schools.

The Santa Cruz City Schools Board of Trustees meets twice monthly; all meetings are open to the public; meeting sites rotate among the school campuses. For the location and date of the next meeting as well as agendas and minutes, visit the Santa Cruz City Schools Website.

The Santa Cruz County Office of Education has an informative Website and newsletter. You’ll find information there about county-wide programs like the Regional Occupation Program, Outdoor Science School, and more.

• General Education News
Education is a hot topic in the media – many national and big-city publications devote regular space to issues affecting our preK-12 schools. Some reliable sources for up-to-date coverage include EdWeek, a subscription Website and printed magazine; EdSource for news and data specific to California schools; Just Schools, a round-up of news articles about state and national education issues. The Washington Post‘s Jay Matthews pens an informative, issues-oriented column; The San Francisco Chronicle and San Jose Mercury News seldom cover our area, but often address issues relevant to our schools; the Los Angeles Times also regularly covers education issues. You can count on the Sacramento Bee to cover statewide education issues.