Thomas C. Dougherty
Director of Bands, Jensen Beach High School
2010 Martin County School District Teacher of the Year
FBA District 13 Chairman
Going off of the points listed above . . . the organization that you establish, must work for YOU. If you are new to a program or if things are not going the way you want them to, don’t be afraid to restructure the parent organization! Be careful that you don’t ‘rock the boat’ too much, but if you make changes in a positive way and explain your rationale, the parental support will follow.
When I arrived at my current position, the band parent organization did not look entirely like it does today. It has evolved, as the needs of our program have evolved. Today, my booster organization has the following full-time parent leadership roles:
There are more chair positions within our organization (such as a different point person for every fundraiser, uniform fittings, concert decorating committee, banquet committee, etc.) but these are the core group of parents in which I delegate responsibility to on a daily basis.
The point behind this is that you must have positions established that YOU feel are important and vital for the success of your program. Don’t be afraid to add a parent position if you feel it is significant and don’t be afraid to remove one if you feel that it is not important. Remember . . . it’s all about the kids, but, you need parent support too!
One last thought to consider . . . hold an informational meeting for JUST the new parents/guardians. High School directors can do this in May, as it makes a wonderful segue for parents who are about to transition from 8th grade into 9th grade. Middle School directors can do this in August, once you know who your beginning band members are. I have done this for the past 10 years and the feedback has always been positive.
The purpose of the meeting, for me, is to ‘break the ice’ with the new parents and to show them the wonderful opportunities that await them and their child. You are not trying to get them to sign up to help at the concession stand or run a fundraiser and you are not telling them about all of the ‘challenging’ aspects associated with band. You want to make the transition smooth and comfortable for them, just like you will for their students. The meeting should NOT be long and you do not want to scare them or overload them with information. Bring Snacks!!
I always ask a few key senior parents to come and share their memories with the incoming parents . . . it's great to hear what the experience means to them, in their own words. They always go back to a few key points that ring loud and clear to all parents:
Lastly . . . you need to thank them. And you need to make a conscious decision to do it often! I thank my parents publically at booster meetings for helping with tasks, events, fundraisers, etc. and I also send congratulatory emails to our entire band family.
I try my absolute best to send an email or letter to every parent that volunteers throughout the year. Of course, I thank them in person for their time and efforts, but I also try to take the time to send them a little note a few days later, thanking them again. Think about how it feels when you get a positive email from a parent, administrator, or community member . . . it feels rewarding and makes us all warm and fuzzy. So, do the same thing for your parents!
Additionally, I provide our parents/guardians with a ‘BAND PARENT’ pin at the Banquet/Award Ceremony at the end of the year. It’s a small expense to your program but it means so much to them to be recognized.
Whether you have a parent/booster organization or not, the relationship that you have with your band parents (as a director) is one that must be valued, supported, enriched, and encouraged. If you are a first year teacher, CONGRATULATIONS!!!!! Now, make it a priority to think about your needs and the needs of your program and how those needs can be met with the assistance of parents. Pick your battles wisely and don’t ‘rock the boat’ too much, too soon. But, make it work for you and MOST IMPORTANTLY, make it work for the kids!