February 22, 2019 Blog, Community, Parent Engagement

Empowering parents at Little Village Academy

When Lillian Lazu started as principal of Little Village Academy (LVA), she struggled to build good relationships with her students’ parents. The previous principal had been at LVA for several years, and it took time for parents to adjust to Lillian.

“It was hard to earn their trust,” said Lillian. “They were used to the same principal for so many years. Now someone new comes in, and they ask themselves, ‘Now what?’”

Lillian took several steps to improve her connection with LVA families. The first thing she did was establish open communication with parents; trust starts with honest conversations. Except for when she is working directly with teachers or students, Lillian has an open-door policy. Parents can – and do – call her, email her or meet with her in person on a regular basis.

Lillian also introduced parent workshops with the hope of creating a welcoming environment and a culture of learning throughout her school community. The workshops range in topic from academic support to immigration policy, but they’re all designed to answer one question: What can parents do at home to help their child succeed?

Parents often ask for ways to help their children with homework, so Lillian’s academic workshops often align with the math and reading lessons students are learning in school. She also integrates some of the school’s social-emotional learning practices. This gives parents concrete ways to extend their child’s learning from the classroom into the home.

When Lillian heard rumors in the community about deportations, she decided the school should host a series of workshops on immigration policy. In these workshops, parents learn about what rights they have as immigrants, what resources are available to them at LVA, and what specific actions lead to being deported. Lillian wants families to be aware of what is happening in the wider world around them. That way her students get the support they need.

So far, parents have found the workshops helpful, but Lillian has seen an even bigger benefit: She gets to hear parents’ perspectives.

“It’s really crucial here because our parents are sometimes quiet,” said Lillian. “Through the workshops, we hear their voices, and they then take the lead on committees and guide other parents.”

By positioning herself as a resource and advocate for parents, Lillian has developed personal relationships with students’ families. She’s become a fixture of the community, and sometimes parents – mothers in particular – come to her and her staff when there’s trouble at home.

“I want them to see themselves as powerful women and to understand that support is out there, and we are one of those resources,” Lillian said.

Lillian’s journey of fostering trust and supporting parents’ voices has taken a significant amount of time and effort, but she doesn’t question that investment for a second. By listening to parents’ needs, Lillian has empowered her school’s families to build a stronger, closer community around LVA.