The school district was planning its first Parent University in 2012. I managed to get the library involved by chance. A local doctor was looking for outreach opportunities and approached me about hosting parenting classes at the Library. I was intrigued but decided to check with my school contact to see what parent education the schools were doing to avoid duplication. That is when I learned about Parent University and how the district would love the library and local doctor’s clinic to help plan it. Now in its second year, we added more school districts, libraries, and healthcare groups to provide experts and to help promote.
The name “Parent University” is not copyrighted or trademarked. You do not need to purchase a kit from a vendor. Many school districts use some variation on the name but structure their program to suit their needs. It reminds me of the summer reading program. Lots of different names and set ups but all have the same purpose. Summer reading is promoting literacy and library use. Parent University is educating parents about important topics and connecting them to local resources.
Parent University in Oregon, WI is a mini-conference for parents of preschool to high school age children. The event is free and open to anyone, even those outside of the district. It is held on a Saturday morning (8:30- Noon) in March when winter sports are ending and spring ones are starting. We host the event at the local intermediate school and use several classrooms for the workshops, the lunchroom for registration and breakfast, and the art room for childcare.
The conference is divided into three sessions that are each an hour long and have 4-6 workshops. Each session has a mix of topics concerning preschool, elementary, middle school, and high school children. Topics include literacy, financial aid, bullying, puberty, sports injuries, mental health, and drug abuse. The workshops are led by an expert in that field (doctors - puberty, librarians - literacy, bullying- guidance counselors). The experts are pulled from the sponsoring school districts, libraries, healthcare organizations, and other community agencies.
We do a few things to encourage parents to attend. We provide a free continental breakfast.Free childcare is provided if you pre register. National Honor Society students help with the child care. Each sponsor provides a door prize. Parents receive a drawing slip for every workshop they attend.
The partnership between the school district, library, and other community agencies is working well for everyone. The event has allowed many of us to create connections with other community groups and now we are working together on projects outside of Parent University.