Effective Parent Partnerships: Developing a Campus Parent Representative Initiative



Workshop Leader—Kathy Palomo

When your funding streams are cut, how do you effectively offer parents collaborative emotional and educational support so they can make informed decisions about their children with special needs?

Public schools, agencies, non-profits and other businesses across the United States are all facing significant funding cuts. As such, many educational programs have been suspended, available positions frozen, or even eliminated. Teachers and parents feel a heightened level of stress when meeting essential needs of students in special education. Often parents do not know who to go to for basic special education related questions and may disengage from their role as a partner for IEP related meetings.

Many school districts have resolved this problem by developing a volunteer program called Campus Parent Representative Initiative (CPRI). In some areas, it is part of the larger Special Education Advisory Committee. In other school districts, it is an initiative that is supported through the district’s division of special education. The purpose of the initiative is to partner parents of children with special needs with a resource contact parent at their child’s campus, who is knowledgeable about programs and services their district and surrounding community offers. The CPR is responsible for the distribution of resources and information about services, training, supports, etc. to parents of special needs students at their home campus. This volunteer is a parent of a child with special needs and serves in the role of facilitator of information.

Key responsibilities include:

  • Support parents in furthering their understanding of special education by connecting them to the campus, district, & community resources they need;
  • Foster a positive relationship between school administrators, special education staff and parents;
  • Establish communication channels for special education such as coffees with parents, booths at back to school night or other functions to distribute information and speak to parents;
  • Inform parents about the special education process and help remove barriers created by misconception, fear or misunderstanding. These parents know the great things the campus and district has to offer and are an excellent resource to help other families understand how well schools and families can work together to achieve the best learning outcome for students.
  • Work with district funded Social Services/Family Support Specialists to address specific campus training needs that will assist the school in bringing about cooperation and coordination of resources to maximize opportunities for improving student performance
  • Provide safe emotional support to families as “one who has been there.” Many parents feel lonely with their personal situation, and linking families with families develops strength in the shared experience.

By implementing a Campus Parent Representative Initiative, parents are partners. Connections are made and parents in remote areas feel less alone in the process. It establishes an overall tone from the special education department and the campus administration that parent’s opinions, participation, feelings, and needs are appreciated and heard. This basic desire for collaboration is paramount to truly having partnerships in school and supports the saying “A‘ohe hana nui ka alu‘ia”...no task is too big when done together by all.

At the end of this session participants will be able to explain the applicability of implementing a Campus Parent Representative Initiative (CPRI) that impacts, home, school and community, describe the associated impact a CPRI has in bringing about positive and collaborative

About the Presenter:

Kathy Palomo, M.Ed. is a Texas-based Consultant and Family Support Specialist providing training, technical assistance, and support to families, school districts, and professionals who come from various disciplines. Kathy is cross trained and her wide-ranging experience encompasses teacher preparation in the area of special education, family education, cultural diversity and professional development in working with children and adults with developmental, behavior, and psychological disorders, including Down syndrome, autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder and various other mental health needs. She specializes in growing skills through strength-based planning, providing preventative and positive supports and has presented on numerous topics in formal and informal forums. She strongly advocates on a national and state level for adequate funding and supports for people with disabilities. Kathy is on the Austin Regional Task Force for Autism reporting to the Texas Council on Autism and Pervasive Developmental Disorders, organizes and coordinates the Austin based Family Support Cooperative, an integrated partnership between major community entities that provide education, training and support to families who have children with disabilities, strongly supports the National Alliance on Mental Illness, and is a member of the local and national Autism Society.