In Iran, Silvana Dermegerdichian was highly involved with her children’s school, volunteering with the PTA and greeting everyone from the receptionists to the principal by name.
But when the family immigrated to Southern California four years ago, she found herself linguistically and culturally isolated. Everything about their new Burbank schools seemed strange, from the coed classes to the dress code.
“I couldn’t communicate with the other parents or the teachers, it was really hard for me,” Dermegerdichian said. “You don’t know how to start.”
Now, Burbank Unified has launched a new effort to better engage all parents, but especially non-native English speakers like Dermegerdichian.
Under the terms of the Parent Involvement Challenge, district officials and parent volunteers will track attendance at events including PTA, booster club and school board meetings, said Jackie Amaya-Garcia, president of the District English Learners Advisory Committee.
Participants can double their points if they are escorted to an event by a PTA member, the goal being to foster relationships between parties that might not otherwise mix, Amaya-Garcia said. The parent with the best attendance record will be recognized by the Burbank Unified school board at the end of the academic year, and the top scoring school will be awarded an on-site party.