by Lori Morrow
I would like to share my thoughts on the volunteer policies on the agenda tonight. I am glad to see that the administrative policies about volunteers will be updated, as there were certainly some gray areas and inconsistent implementation in Administrative Procedures for Volunteers and Criminal Background Checks.
However, as I read the updated language for Board Policy 0106, I’m concerned some of these new procedures have the potential to create barriers for parents who are interested in volunteering. In particular, I believe that, while “Requiring all volunteers and leadership of Parent Teacher Associations and Parent Teacher Organizations to undergo specific training on reporting suspected child abuse and neglect” is an understandable reaction to incidents this year, depending on the form that training takes, it is yet another requirement we’re levying on volunteers that could result in diminished volunteerism.
I am a former Elementary School PTA President, and incoming Middle School PTSO President and I know how difficult it can be to engage parents and recruit them as volunteers. It is my hope that parent leaders and advocates will be included in your process as you establish volunteer training and monitoring procedures. Parents, grandparents and community members who choose to provide free labor in our schools should be treated as welcomed partners, not suspects. We accept the locked doors and Raptor checks and the sign-in procedures, but we also want reassurance that volunteers are welcome and needed.
In my personal experience, I think we lost some of that welcome feeling both when Parent Liaison positions were eliminated in the budget cuts years ago, and also as security measures have increased in recent years. If parents, school staff, and the administration work together, I believe we can find a balance between the transparent, welcoming atmosphere parents and volunteers appreciate, while still maintaining the safe learning environment our students deserve.