MIDLAND Being a parent can be tough, and navigating the sometimes-complicated waters of having a child in public education make parenting even tougher.
Burnet Elementary Family Outreach Liaison Maggie Acosta knows this firsthand.
“I’m a Burnet parent myself, so I understand some of the things that parents may find frustrating or confusing, like finding information in Skyward,” Acosta said.
Now in its second year, Midland ISD’s Family Outreach Liaisons serve as the connection between parents and their child’s campus and even get families involved in campus life.
Get Them in the Door
Acosta — known around Burnet as “Miss Maggie” — and her family came to Midland from Del Rio after her husband accepted an opportunity to work in the oil industry. She sympathizes with parents who might be confused about certain aspects of having children at MISD, such as using Skyward or managing lunches through SchoolCafé.
“A lot of our families are new to Midland, and navigating the ins and outs of their child’s education can be difficult,” adding that this is especially true for those families who have recently emigrated to the United States.
“In places like Cuba and Venezuela, parents are expected to leave their children’s education entirely to the school and not take part themselves. It’s a big cultural difference compared to the United States,” Acosta said. She helps parents understand that not only are they welcome at campus, but they’re wanted.
“And once we get them in the door, their lives change and campus becomes even more vibrant,” Acosta said.
The First Link
“There is no one-size-fits-all approach to family and parent engagement,” said Mechelle Jones, Family Outreach Coordinator. “Each campus community is different and has its own unique culture, and each family has different needs.”
What Family Liaisons and Parent Liaisons provide is critical: “They’re often the first link or contact between parents and their child’s campus,” Jones said. “And sometimes, they’re the campus staff member parents are most comfortable working with at first. It’s about building relationships with our families.”
Acosta is passionate about attendance. When she learns that a student has missed a few days of school, she’ll call their parents to see if she can learn why and offer support.
“Oftentimes, the parent needs help but is too shy or embarrassed to ask for help,” she said. “Many don’t know that services exist that can support them, so I work to get them connected to organizations like the MISD Family Support Center, where they can get food and other necessities for free.”
The effectiveness of Acosta’s outreach shows.
“Our attendance rate at Burnet is about 95%, which is excellent,” said Principal Julie Barraza. “Many times all it takes is a caring person to reach out to lend a hand, and Maggie has been invaluable.
“Now that I’ve had a Liaison, I don’t know that I could ever be without one.”
Every step of the way
Jones says the goal of the Family Outreach program is to be impactful. “Parents are a key component in student success. When they need help, we’re there to support them. But we’re also here to help them grow as parents.”
One of the big wins happens through the Family Leadership Institute (FLI), where Liaisons work with families at their campus on setting goals for their children and the entire family.
“A common goal is wanting their child to graduate from high school, which for many of our families is a major accomplishment because their child would be the first to do so,” Acosta said. During FLI, Liaisons guide parents in creating a plan and exploring behaviors that sabotage success.
Acosta says success won’t happen overnight nor on its own. “They have to be involved every step of the way, and we’re here to walk this journey with them.”