At Pewamo-Westphalia Middle/High School, we believe our three stakeholder groups—students, educators, and parents—determine the overall success of our educational experience. We use the analogy that successful education is a strong, solid, weight-bearing “three-legged stool,” with each leg representing one of the stakeholder groups. We have confidence in and rely upon each leg of the stool holding its own weight and doing its job so that it does not collapse or fail. Furthermore, we have a culture in our building that is built upon strong relationships, as we follow the research that dictates that communication and trust are the deciding factors in determining the overall success of any relationship. That being stated, we knew that during a challenging and divisive season such as pandemic education, communication and trust would be even more paramount; when there is a lack of communication, or lack of trust, negativity fills in the gap. 

With our educators and support staff, our daily interactions, professional development gatherings, school improvement team think tanks, and weekly memos filled the communication/trust gap. With our students, we were able to engage in our classrooms, in the hallways, via our Student Voice Forum, and during extracurricular events. However, with the third “leg” of the stool, our parents needed a consistent, convenient, and specialized engagement method to ensure their voices were heard.   

Therefore, starting in September of this past school year, we announced our intent to host virtual gathering every one to two weeks for our parents and community. We titled the interactive Zoom meetings “Monday Musings from the MS/HS” and gathered Monday nights at 5:30 p.m. in a virtual town hall, where we sought to provide a weekly platform for our parent stakeholders to share their questions, comments, or concerns—and, thus, grow our cohesion, inclusion, and communication with this often-neglected stakeholder group. We invited special guests to join us for every Monday Musing—including school improvement team members, student voice forum leaders, our theater director, our head football coach, our special education director, and the superintendent—and we attempted to engage our community via varied interests and connections.  

Our 30-minute Zoom sessions commenced each time with a review of our purpose or objectives for Monday Musings (to grow communication, inclusion, and cohesion with our parents), followed by a brief synopsis of all things academic, arts, and extracurricular within our building. Following the brief summary, we would ask our special guests a few prepared questions, and then leave the final 10 minutes for our parents to ask questions or voice concerns.  

All in all, Monday Musings from the MS/HS served as a consistent opportunity to connect and engage our parents in our educational process, while concurrently increasing communication and trust within the relationship. Like so many other lessons ascertained during pandemic learning, there are several tools, strategies, and processes we plan to continue using, even post-pandemic—we call these the “beautiful realities” of an adverse season. One of the “beautiful” initiatives we intend to continue implementing is Monday Musings from the MS/HS via Zoom; we simply see too many benefits from its consistent, efficient, and effective format not to continue it. Furthermore, we envision that Monday Musings has the potential to grow even greater communication, cohesion, and inclusion within our district community next year. We are enthusiastic about the potential for continued collaboration and growth!

About the Author

Todd Simmons is the principal of Pewamo-Westphalia Middle/High School in Westphalia, MI. He is the 2020 Michigan Principal of the Year.

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