Parent Liaisons Reach Out To Help

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Parents with questions about the Payson Unified School District have a connection just for them.

Actually, they have two: the Parent Community Liaisons, Christy Walton and Blanche Oakland.

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Blanche Oakland and Christy Walton are parents' connection to Payson's public schools. The two are Parent Community Liaisons, hired through the No Child Left Behind funds made available to the district by the federal government. If parents have a question about what is going on in the schools with their children. Oakland and Walton are the people available to help.

Walton said, "Our job is to establish a working relationship between families, the school and community -- based on trust, respect and two-way communication."

She said they are also facilitators to get parents involved in the schools.

"Our bottom line is to boost student achievement," Walton said.

The two positions were created in January 2003, using federal money made available through the No Child Left Behind Act. Working with Gila Community College, they helped develop the parenting classes that start this week. These were also funded with money made available through the No Child Left Behind Act.

Walton covers the three elementary schools and Oakland is the liaison for the middle school, the high school and the Center for Success.

"We can be called in by a teacher, the parents, the administrator or the district. We investigate the situation, intervene or make referrals to local agencies," Walton said.

"If a parent is absent, we try to close the gap for the child. We do whatever it takes to reach the family," Oakland said.

Walton said between January and May she has worked between 30 and 50 cases. Oakland has done at least 200. She said, "Our jobs differ. Teenagers make their own choices. I made home visits in the outlying area throughout the summer. And now more are seeking me out because of the summer visits. I get calls at all hours."

Walton said, "My job is to see parents and teachers connect at the elementary level. If there's a situation where they're struggling, I try to give them the resources to help."

The two women do Spanish translations for families as well.

Right now they are working in the school buildings, but eventually they will have a building of their own on the main campus, near the PUSD office on Wade. In addition to having their offices in the building, they will also have a resource center for parents. In the future, Oakland will be doing more visits in outlying areas, this time accompanied by principals, so parents will have an opportunity for a personal visit without coming to the school.

Both Walton and Oakland have backgrounds in education. Walton, formerly the owner of a dance and fitness business, has a bachelor's degree in communication and a master's degree in counseling. Oakland, who is retired from Motorola, has a bachelor's degree in business administration and an associate's degree in computer science. She went to work for PUSD as a teacher's aide in the English Language Learners program after seeing a want ad, then, while working for the schools, was contacted by the district personnel office about the liaison job.

For more information about the Parent Community Liaison program, check the school website, pusd.com, or call Walton at 474-5882 or Oakland at 474-4511.

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