Despite some concerns, the Sunnyside School Board approved a contract with Transformation Sunnyside Yakima Valley last night for a pilot program to improve parent engagement with schools. The contract was approved via a vote of 3-2.
The 18-month pilot program will work with 60 families who are employed with Haak Farms in Sunnyside. Transformation Sunnyside will receive $30 an hour for its work, up to a total of 1,400 hours over the course of the program.
A joint presentation was made last night by Roberto Matus of Transformation Sunnyside and Lorenzo Garza, former school board member now working for the district. Garza outlined the time frame for the pilot project, noting that the plan will allow for documentation of progress during each phase.
Matus said the plan is designed to build relationships, enforce and strengthen the efforts made by schools and finally to collect ideas that will help the district formulate a proper response to issues regarding family engagement that will ensure student success.
Matus said his organization had already invested more than 80 hours, without a contract, to setting up the pilot program by meeting with the farm owners. He said a parent meeting is planned for today (Friday) to start working on the pre-assessment so progress can be tracked.
“We have set for ourselves smart goals,” Matus told the school board. “They are measurable.”
Garza said the pilot program is designed to be flexible. If some students are doing well without the program, other students may be added. He said the organization will be trying different methods and reporting on what succeeds and what fails.
Matus also said the school board will receive regular updates from program officials and that program participants may give presentations to the board.
“The best way to report is to have the people come and tell their stories themselves,” said Matus. “A check in a box, a mark on a page, doesn’t mean anything.”
The program will be using all the resources available in Sunnyside to improve family engagement. Matus said Transformation Sunnyside will not be providing services, but instead will be working with families to direct them to the services they need.
Board director Michelle Perry questioned the total cost of the project. She said that spending almost $42,000 in 18 months on only 60 students is not a good return.
She also noted that the plan as presented indicated only 700 hours would be spent on the project by Transformation Sunnyside, but the monthly contract amount was for $2,333, coming out to about $60 an hour.
Matus said the project involves 60 families with students and that the actual cost is $30 an hour. The board eventually approved a modification of the contract that makes the $30 an hour explicit and limits the total number of hours to 1,400.
Voting against the contract were Perry and Director Dylan Gardner.