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Shawnee Mission School District alters daytime parent-teacher conferences

OVERLAND PARK, Kan. -- Megan Peters wants to make sure her first and sixth grade children make good progress in their education.

"Parent-teacher communication is really important to me because I`m not sitting in that classroom all day with the kids," Peters said.

As a working mom, she depends on meetings with her children's teachers to stay up to speed.

"To have more options in the evenings for when to meet for these kind of conferences and things like that really helps me out and I know that will really help out a lot of other parents at our school," she said.

"This year the district decided to make a change. We still will have night conferences at both elementary and secondary schools but the daytime conferences where kids are out of school are not on the calendar anymore," Linda Sieck, president of NEA Shawnee Mission, said.

Sieck said the district is taking a new approach to how parents and teachers communicate throughout the year.

"That might be in the form of a face-to-face conference, a phone call, communication via email. The idea is, let`s not wait until an arbitrary day in October to meet. If you have a concern about your child or, as a teacher, I have a concern about your student," Sieck said.

However there is a concern on how this change will impact educators.

"It is an ask of the district for teachers to meet beyond their contract day. For some teachers that is a challenge. They have young kids they want to pick up, many of our teachers have second jobs, they coach, weekends are family time, they are time we spend planning and grading," Sieck said.

Parents are hoping this new system works for both sides.

"I do worry about the teachers because they put so much into our kids. They have to put so much personally, financially into doing things for their own classrooms and asking them to work extra evenings I just hope that they are being compensated properly for that," Peters said.

Shawnee Mission School District sent this letter to parents on Wednesday:

Consistent communication between parents and teachers is critical to the academic success of students. The Shawnee Mission School District is committed to open communication and dialogue with parents at all times.

For the 2017-2018 school year, we have incorporated more opportunities to encourage ongoing parent communication and conferencing.

These adjustments have resulted in more uninterrupted weeks of school and two additional days where students are learning in the classroom. Not only do these changes allow us to address parent feedback regarding the calendar, they also provide: an increase in student instructional time, consistency in the school calendar, and flexibility for parent schedules.

This was developed in conversation with the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission (NEA-SM). Instead of a designated parent-teacher conference day, teachers will have more flexibility to communicate with parents and to connect with them in a way that best serves everyone.
• Conference times by appointment, with availability before and/or after school.
● Conferences may take place through a variety of avenues including, but not limited to: ○ One-on-one, in person ○ Face Time ○ WebEx ○ Note: If all attempts to conference face-to-face have failed, teachers may conduct a phone conference with the parent(s).
● Special education team collaboration meetings that are outside of annual IEP requirements.

By increasing the opportunities for communication and the flexibility to support continual feedback related to your child’s progress, we look forward to strengthening the connection and relationships between school and home. Thank you for your continued support and partnership.