SHERIDAN – The Parent Liaisons with the Compass Center for Families continue to work with parents in Sheridan County School District 2 and are expanding their impact to other schools.
According to a report recently submitted by the liaisons to the SCSD2 Board of Trustees, 940 families received information and support from the Parent Liaisons in the last school year.
Of these, 309 families worked continuously with their parent liaison.
The mission of the Parent Liaison Program, according to the Compass Center for Families, is to build strong partnerships between schools and parents to ensure success for all children. Parent representatives work as part of a team to bridge the gap between home and school. They provide one-to-one support, educational opportunities for parents, connections to community and school resources, and encourage communication and connection between teachers, staff and parents.
The Parent Liaison Program model was developed by Thrive in Bozeman, Montana, and implemented in Sheridan County during the 2015-2016 school year as a public-private partnership between Thrive, Sheridan County School District 2, the Compass Center for Families, and key community stakeholders.
For the 2022-2023 school year, parent contacts are present at all six SCSD2 elementary schools as well as Sheridan Junior High School.
“Children are an intricate part of a family system and you can’t remove them from that family system,” said Kassahn Mathson, Compass program director. “And when a family system experiences stress or hardship, it affects the children dramatically, and the teachers see that in the classroom.”
Kelly Rickett, a parent liaison at Highland Park Elementary School, shared how she helped a parent who was on the verge of losing the home for themselves and their family due to the sale of their rental home. Rickett said she has helped the mother file requests for assistance, overcome language barriers and provided her with things like Walmart gift cards.
Angela Brugger, the parent liaison for Story Elementary School and Woodland Park Elementary School, also shared a story with the SCSD2 board. Brugger told the story of an ongoing relationship, having parental contacts with a mother who was involved in an abusive relationship and was struggling to leave.
“There were times when we didn’t hear from her, and usually it was when she was struggling or they were really struggling with this relationship,” Brugger said. “And you know, the teachers couldn’t reach their staff, they couldn’t reach them.”
When the mother made the decision to end the abusive relationship, she needed help finding housing for herself and her four children. The situation affected the children’s academic performance as they were lagging behind academically and had encountered some behavioral problems.
The family now lives in Buffalo, has a permanent home and the children are doing better in school. Brugger said the things that struck her most during the trial were the continuity of care from the parents’ liaisons over five years and that the mother and family had always been treated with respect and without judgement.
Mathson also noted that Compass has expanded the parent liaison program to Buffalo schools.
A survey of those who have used parent liaison services found improved access to community resources, improved communication between parents and school, better understanding by schools of family situations, better parent involvement and improved student attendance.
Additionally, Mathson says, not all interactions are as deep or involved as the stories they shared. Some are parents looking for help with things like gas money, tutoring advice, or behavior issues.
School board members emphasized that the program is available to all families and encouraged Compass to consider establishing a liaison at the high school level, as well as in the other schools where they serve.