News & Press

Partnership. Flexibility. Support.

At Lesley Ellis School, an independent day school in Arlington, Mass., caring about the entire family is key to ensuring student success. “First and foremost, we want to have a partnership with parents on behalf of their children,” states Head of School Deanne Benson. That means getting to know the parents and establishing a supportive relationship. 


Early Childhood Program Director Tischa Brown adds that Lesley Ellis’ school-wide anti-bias curriculum and focus make it imperative to reach out to parents and embrace them, as well as their child, for who they are. “The school wants to celebrate each family and make sure that everybody feels welcome and that they belong,” she says. For example, when Tischa greeted a new family in Farsi, the mother was surprised – and appreciative of the effort. Tischa explains, “It was a way to say ‘I see you and your family. Welcome, we want you here.’


“That’s a way to care for parents. That says that your child is safe here. That helps them to go to work and know their child is going to be okay.”


Making It Work

Additionally, Lesley Ellis supports its busy parents by providing flexibility, especially in its Early Childhood Program. The school day schedule offers myriad possibilities. Parents can opt for children to be in the program for a half or full day. Children can stay one to five days until 3:15 p.m.; they can stay one to five days until 5:30 p.m. Parents can pick the schedule. “Our goal is to make it work for parents,” states Deanne. ”We feel that’s a way we can support parents in our partnership with them, being as flexible as we can be in the options that we give when they need care for their children.” 


“Another thing we do as a school,” explains Tischa, “is offer optional check-in conferences early in the school year.” The parent-led conference, which happens by the end of September, is a way for them to share whatever they want the school to know about their child and their family. According to Tischa, that’s an important way to communicate that the school cares and wants to make sure that the parent is heard. 


Similarly, Lesley Ellis works with parents at the start of the school year to ease school entry for preschool and prekindergarten students, and even for a new student in an older grade. This process makes separation easier for the parent also. 


“A child coming into the school may be very anxious about separating from their parents and being left in a place they don’t know,” shares Deanne. “So, Lesley Ellis offers the parent the chance to read a book to the child and then leave, telling the child when they will be back.


“But we also then say to the parents, because it’s hard to leave when your heart is still in the classroom, that we will send pictures of the child during the day.” This lets the parents know that their child is doing ok. Tischa adds that she has also offered her office so they can hear that their child is doing better.


Also, for the youngest children, parents receive a daily newsletter about their child’s activities. This goes out before dinner time so that parents can talk to their child about what they did in school that day. 


Regular Communication

Tischa, new this year to Lesley Ellis, spoke about the high degree of communication Deanne and individual teachers regularly have with parents. One example was around the issue of homework in October. She explained that Deanne sent a note to teachers reminding them that as they assigned homework they should factor in all of the extra family activities on Halloween. 


Additionally, when teachers send out homework, they sometimes send information to parents about how the subject is being taught in the classroom so when parents are sitting with their child, they know how to do it. “Homework can be a challenge,” adds Deanne, “whether it’s a lot of homework or a little, it can be a sticking point.”


Additional Support

Part of building a strong relationship with parents is providing support when a child is struggling or when a parent is struggling with something going on with their child. “Again, it’s about the partnership,” states Deanne. “We want to meet with them, and we want to work with them to come up with strategies together. 


“We also have a school counselor who has met one-on-one with parents around anxiety, depression and making referrals to outside support.”


Making Great Memories Together

Reflecting on her own school experience, Tischa mentioned, “When I think back to my early years, school can be an amazing place for great memories.” Having parents involved goes a long way toward school being somewhere a child wants to be vs. a place a child has to be, making lifelong memories and developing a love of learning.


Explains Deanne, “We are working with parents on behalf of their child. When we are working in partnership, it is 150% better for the child. And that’s why we are here. We are here for the children.”