3 Ways to Get Involved in Your Local School District

Families attend "Jammin' with the Arts Night" with their students, at an Eau Claire elementary school.

Families attend "Jammin' with the Arts Night" with their students, at an Eau Claire elementary school. Everyone could create canvas paintings at the fun event organized by the art teacher, with canvases provided by the local PTA. (Photo by Tammy Rud, courtesy of the Eau Claire Area School District)

By Salina Heller

September 15, 2023

For all of the talk about ‘parents’ rights,’ there are already many opportunities for community members to become personally invested in their local schools and find out first-hand what’s happening.

Many people believe their involvement in local education is limited to attending schools as a child and paying taxes as adults. But there are other ways that ensure our children get the quality education they deserve.

Serving vs. Voting

Voting on Election Day to ensure champions of public education are elected to office, of course, is imperative, but have you considered serving on your local school board?

 The Wisconsin Association of School Boards prints a guide on how to run for a position on a school board. You don’t have to be a professional educator to run—just a community member who believes in investing in the generations to come.

Family Advisory Councils

If you’re a parent of a school-age student, another thing you can do is volunteer for your local school’s Family Advisory Council.

When parents get involved, children are more likely to do better in school, be better behaved, and have more positive attitudes. In some schools, parents can participate at the policy-making level. Many districts have councils that help determine the direction of schools. 

In the Eau Claire Area School District, the Family Advisory Council fosters communication between families and administration.

Each school has representatives. Mother of four children in the district, Shana Schmidt, is on the council.

Schmidt said it offers opportunities to get to know district administrators and leaders who make decisions about and influence curriculum, funding, and district policies.

“You can share news about the school you represent and bring back news to the school’s leadership and PTA/PTO,” Schmidt said. “It’s also a great way to understand district wide activity, from major referendums to snow days, and provide feedback about all of it directly to the superintendent and other district leaders.” 

PTA/PTO Activity

Join your local parent organization—the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) or Organization (PTO). Doing so will give you the opportunity to meet other parents and teachers and discuss issues that are on your mind while also offering the school support during events and other volunteer-run initiatives. 

“Even if you can’t make every meeting, you’ll have opportunities to volunteer and offer opinions, and you’ll get to know the principal and other school personnel,” Schmidt offers.

Schmidt also suggests volunteering in the classroom or on field trips. She also said it’s beneficial to always be in touch with your child’s teacher.

“Attend parent teacher conferences and have an authentic conversation about your concerns, hopes, and observations related to your child’s learning and social/emotional development,” Schmidt said. “Even sending a simple email telling a teacher that your child enjoys their class can grow your connection to the teacher and the school.”

Author

  • Salina Heller

    A former 15-year veteran of reporting local news for western Wisconsin TV and radio stations, Salina Heller also volunteers in community theater, helps organize the Chippewa Valley Air Show, and is kept busy by her daughter’s elementary school PTA meetings. She is a UW-Eau Claire alum.

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