School Business Affairs June 2020

16 JUNE 2020 | SCHOOL BUSINESS AFFAIRS For APS, this overall growth means more people to inform and engage in our school division. For families, more information and activities can make it challenging to keep up with the latest news and have a voice in dis- cussions about the future of APS. APS School Ambassador Program Recognizing that the two-way communications integral to the Arlington Way needed a boost, Assistant Superin- tendent Linda Erdos developed the APS School Ambas- sador program in 2017. The program involves parent volunteers at each school who curate APS division- wide information and share key big-picture issues with families in ways that work best within their school communities. “Parents turn to other parents all the time to get the latest school news,” Erdos says. “We heard from PTA leaders that they were fielding questions about APS plans and we knew they already had a lot on their plates. The APS School Ambassadors can help families learn about school division initiatives that might affect them and how they can get involved.” Erdos collaborated with principals to identify a parent volunteer at each elementary, middle, and high school, and hired a bilingual coordinator whose responsibilities would include managing this network starting in the 2017–2018 school year. The goal is for each school or program to have at least one ambassador; schools with many students who speak a language other than English are encouraged to have an additional ambassador who speaks that language. As schools closed due to COVIDo-19, the program had 47 volunteers who served 38 schools and programs; about a half dozen are Spanish-speaking and one speaks Ara- bic. Some PTA leaders take on a dual role and serve as Ambassadors as well. Spreading the News The role of the APS School Ambassador is defined as helping families at each school stay up-to-date on major initiatives in the school division during the school year, including providing information, helping answer fami- lies’ questions, and sharing feedback with APS staff. The program coordinator is available by phone and email to answer ambassadors’ questions or to steer them in the right direction for any information they need from APS. A fall meeting provides ambassadors with an over- view of the school year’s initiatives and ideas for keep- ing families informed; an in-person or online update is held in the spring. Information is conveyed throughout the school year, primarily in weekly email updates in English and Spanish, using a format that makes it easy for ambassadors to copy and paste only those items of interest to families at their schools. For some initiatives, APS provides shareable graphics for text messages and social media, or a short slide presentation for use at par- ent meetings. To date, the types of information shared throughout the three years of the APS School Ambassador program include short blurbs with links to more details, commu- nity engagement opportunities, and deadlines for initia- tives such as the following: The updates often include questionnaires that seek community input on such issues as the search for a new superintendent, possible options for the next school year calendar, and potential changes in bus transportation services. BULLRUN/STOCK.ADOBE.COM