- Desert Ridge High
Family engagement supported and celebrated at GPS schools
Our Gilbert Public Schools’ parents and families are the backbone of our school communities. With their support, our students reach new levels of success and our educators feel uplifted. There is no small amount of giving, whether time or money, from our parents and families that goes unappreciated by our GPS schools.
“I love their willingness to be part of our community and culture,” said Mallory Miller, principal of Pioneer Elementary.
Pioneer has a history of strong family engagement, so this year the staff is finding ways to celebrate their generosity. This includes parent/family shoutouts from Miller and more campus events for the entire family.
“You see the kids’ eyes light up when their families come on campus. Kids love to brag about their school and introduce friends to their families,” Miller said.
Marianne Arnold is the president of Pioneer’s PTSO organization. Three of her four children have been Pioneer students. She began volunteering at the school shortly after her family moved to Gilbert six years ago.
“I felt like I was supposed to be involved, but I didn’t know what to do,” Arnold said.
Her volunteer work started with overseeing the collection of Box Tops. Now she helps plan events for the entire school community. Arnold believes that volunteering helped her develop closer relationships with her kids’ teachers and a better understanding of the school’s needs.
“I just wanted to connect with people and get to know them,” she said.
As a Title I school, the Pioneer PTSO makes sure students and families have access to free campus events, so finances aren’t a barrier. The PTSO hosts a variety of events, including a daddy/daughter dance, mother/son event, parents and pastries, and game nights. Arnold says the events help create positive memories.
“I think we need more of those moments with our kids, where we’re putting the screens away and just being with them,” she said.
Every bit of engagement counts. For working families unable to volunteer their time on campus, Miller says they have found other ways to contribute. Some families have offered to cut paper for teachers while others have donated cool prizes to the student recognition program.
“You think parent involvement is those people who are always there, but there is so much more to it,” Miller said.
At Desert Ridge High School, families are quick to sign up to help celebrate the hard work of teachers and staff. Principal DJ Spetz and Assistant Principal Jennifer Smith have been extremely grateful for the encouragement over the years.
“The community as a whole is very supportive. We have very good students. They smile and thank us. They go out of their way to do stuff for us. It’s the same with our families. They are always looking for ways to get involved,” Spetz said.
This year, Smith along with one of the school’s counselors are developing a parent volunteer program, after a survey revealed a number of families would like to get involved with various campus events.
“We’re kind of starting off small,” Smith said, “It’s more about developing social connections and giving families an opportunity to connect with staff.”
Desert Ridge High families have been an integral part of keeping the staff morale up and making sure they feel appreciated. In most recent years, families have contributed to a staff BBQ, an ice cream social, provided back-to-school supplies, gift cards and goodie bags. Students have also written thank you notes to staff.
“We always receive more than we ask for,” Spetz said.
“It makes us feel valued. They realize the importance of a high school in our community, and this is their way of making sure the staff knows that,” Smith said.
Spetz and Smith would like to eventually expand the parent volunteer program to include student celebrations on campus.
“For the students to see their parents and families care is great,” Spetz said.
Miller agrees. She encourages families to get involved, because the benefits are worth the time and effort.
"Being an active participant in your kid's school is only going to help you become more knowledgeable and help your kid's learning at that school in the long-run," she said.