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Family Engagement Center

From ’91-96, I lived here in DHS for the final year of middle school and a majority of my High School Years. I was one of many students who were transported via public transportion from our city to Raymond Cree Middle and Palm Springs High. I may be dating myself, but my school years as a student in DHS were quite unique. In addition to being bused, we also had a stigma that we felt was imposed by those that lived in Palm Springs. We had a chip on our shoulder in a sense because it appeared that we were from the “other side of the tracks”. At the time, the stigma had the potential to be extremely demoralizing, but for the most part, we were a fairly resilient group.

Fast forward nearly 25 (wow!) years and here we are. DHS has an amazing High School and wonderful Middle Schools. However, the disconnect remained for many years. Because we have a daughter in the district attending schools here in DHS, we decided to do all that we can to ensure that her experience was different. A couple of years ago I had the honor to meet with Dr. Sandy Lyon (Superintendent of Palm Springs Unified School District) and she showed a concern with bridging the cap between DHS and the rest of the district. After speaking with her, I began to take notice of all the programs and resources the district offered and their intentional efforts to involve our city. One of these resources happens to be our Family Engagement Center. This week we welcome Ruby Rivera, the coordinator of the Family Engagement Center, please share this with parents in your community!

The PSUSD Family Center is committed to:
-Expanding parent, community and stakeholder input
-Increasing opportunities for family and community engagement
-Providing opportunities for Adult/Parent Education
-Fostering partnerships between schools, parent leadership, advocacy groups and community organizations

What is the Purpose of the Family Engagement Center?

Community and Parent Engagement is an essential part of Palm Springs Unified School District’s vision, goals and actions. It is the PSUSD Family Engagement Department’s fundamental belief that families and community members are essential partners within a school district and that trusting and respectful relationships must be intentionally cultivated. We recognize and appreciate that sustained family and community engagement positively impact student success and academic achievement.
Palm Springs Unified School District has proactively opened and staffed two district Family Centers. The PSUSD Family Centers are located in Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs and are open for services including the following:

-Family and Parent Education Classes: (7 Habits of Successful Families, Triple P, Educate, Equip and Support, Courageous Parenting)
-Resources and Referrals: (medical health, mental health, basic needs support, local and county resource connections, PSUSD department referrals)
-Support for parent leadership groups, forums and advisories (PTA, AAPAC, SEPAC, LPAC, LGBTQ, DELAC)
-Adult Learning & Personal Development: (ESL Classes, technology classes, technology access at two centers including computers and internet, personal development workshops)
-Attendance and Academic Counseling: Support in accessing programs such as ParentVue (parent access to student attendance and grades), Sprigeo (online reporting system), PeachJar (Online flyer delivery system) and support in accessing and understanding school site or district departments, programs and resources.

Why do you feel it is so important and what role does it play (or will it play) in our community going forward?

It is important for families to feel valued and encouraged to act as advocates, leaders and stakeholders to support their child’s academic success. I believe that one of the greatest services offered by the Family Center is supporting parent leadership because their engagement is invaluable. Strong parent and community partnership leads to better academic, social, emotional, and behavioral outcomes for our students. Parent leaders are provided with professional development that builds their capacity to actively engage in district programs, policy development, goal setting and budget development. Parent leaders are encouraged to share their knowledge and skills to significantly shape the direction of the district’s programs, their school site policies and student achievement outcomes.
Parent leadership is successfully achieved when parents, schools and the district have built effective partnerships with shared responsibility. Palm Springs Unified School District supports parents in various leadership roles including involvement with the following Parent and Community Advisory groups:
● AAPAC: African American Parent Advisory Council
● DELAC: District English Learner Advisory Council
● SEPAC: Special Education Parent Advisory Council
● PTA Council/ Parents In Action: Parent Teacher Association Council and Forum for all PTA/PTG/PTO members
● PTA Latino : Sub-Committee Stakeholder group that is part of the Palms Springs Council of PTAs
● LGBTQ+ PAC : Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning Parent Advisory Council
● School Site Councils
● LCAP Parent Ambassadors : Stakeholders that provide input regarding LCAP goals and budget
● FEDAC : Family Engagement District Advisory Council
● FETAC : Family Engagement Teacher Advisory Council

What have been your biggest challenges and successes?

One of the greatest challenges that we face is inequity in education, resources, and access. The School District is traditionally known for being in the business of education but we really are so much more. We care deeply about every family and want to see their physical, emotional and mental needs met as well. We want every child to feel safe, healthy and cared for which means we must also be concerned about their home. We want our educators to recognize the individual assets that children bring to school with them each day and respect all families’ culture. We aim to provide high quality instruction and maintain high expectations regardless of the inequities that some children come to school with each day. Bridging the gap between home and schools is critical in supporting our children. I believe that the best way to address issues of inequity is to have a genuine collaboration between PSUSD, school sites, community leaders, parents, and students. We can do so much more when we work together and our children are worth the effort.

Although we cannot take credit for their success, I consider it a huge success for family engagement in general, to see parent volunteers develop their skills and go on to become PSUSD staff. Many of our parents will tirelessly give hours to their schools as volunteers and I love to see their hard work validated when they apply for employment with PSUSD. One of the most successful events hosted by the Family Center is a STEM Conference for Families that we called STEMCon. PSUSD teachers and community members provided lessons that included hand-ons learning opportunities in the study of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics. We always utilize a hands-on approach at this conference and families love the fun learning experiences which included CPR instruction, virtual reality field trips and heart dissection.

Concerning Covid 19 How are you all adjusting virtually?

Because of COVID 19, the Family Center has had to make adjustments to our normally scheduled calendar of events and services. For the remainder of the 19-20 school year, we will not be open to the public at either of our family centers. We are however, continuing to provide service by phone, email, website and social media. Family Center staff is available to make referrals and answer any questions as usual. Families can contact a Family Center representative daily from 9-11 am Tuesday through Thursday. We are keeping families updated regarding COVID 19 policies and district announcements through this newsletter: PSUSD COVID – 19 Information.

To keep our families engaged we are hosting weekly activities with prize incentives. One of the weekly activities provides information related to social emotional learning in a newsletter that we are calling “Family Connections.” Each week families will be presented with a different topic to learn about and then asked to participate in an activity with their family. Families are asked to share photos of their work on social media and participants will be randomly selected to win gift card prizes. (For example: Week 1: Internet Safety – https://www.smore.com/k49c8)

We are also promoting weekly virtual spirit weeks for our families. They are a way for families to connect with each other at home and then connect with other families online by sharing a photo! We want to celebrate the silver lining of this pandemic which is that many of use are getting more time with our families. We are offering weekly prizes for families who participate online. Tag us on social media for a chance to win a gift card every week until June 12th. See the flyer here:. https://bit.ly/fcspiritweek

Before school closure, the Family Center was planning the PSUSD Excellence Award Ceremony. This will now be a live streamed event for families to watch together online. A designated date and time will be shared with families soon. The following categories will be recognized during this online award ceremony; PSUSD Teachers of the Year, Top Ten Seniors of each High School, Community Partners, Hometown Hero, and Parent Volunteer of the Year. We believe that all of these people make our schools great and are essential for the success of our students.
Through the online game, SHAPE, parents complete short learning activities that support family engagement. Our five focus areas align with the family center goals to support you in parenting, health, safety, attendance, academics, lifelong learning and leadership. We currently have a total of 300 players subscribed to play the game and we have approximately 15-20 families that are actively playing per week. Every week we have been getting at least 2 new families enrolling. We offer this program year round but expect to see an increase in participants during this time. Parents earn points, level up and win prize incentives for their achievement in the SHAPE game. Parents earning at least 1,000 points will be entered in a drawing that will earn up to 10 participants a $100 gift card.

What would you like the community to know about your endeavors?
I want the community and families to know that PSUSD and our Family Center really do care about families and their whole wellbeing. We are always open to collaboration and with businesses, faith based groups, advocacy groups and families. Having strong community partnerships is part of our mission and is what can really make a great impact in our cities.

What is your “why?”
I graduated from Palm Springs Unified School District and have been working in the school district for the past 12 years. I knew that I wanted to be an educator because of the profound impact that my teachers and coaches had on my life growing up. I have always believed in the power of education and want to share that passion I have with families. I help families connect to the school district and utilize the many services and resources offered. As a parent of children in our school district, I feel like I can relate to parents working hard to provide for their family and understand the urgent passion we feel to help our children succeed. As the coordinator of Family Engagement, I work with staff, parents, community partners and a family engagement team to plan, implement around areas of family engagement for PSUSD.

The Family Engagement Center is an important resource to our community. I ask that you help spread the word and encourage parents to get involved.

11625 West Drive, Room 25 Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240
Contact: (760) 894-4072
Email: familycenter@psusd.us

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