By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — Norman Public Schools’ middle schools, in partnership with the United Way’s Destination Graduation Committee and the Norman Chamber of Commerce, will host the third annual Parent Connection Day Conference on Saturday.
From 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Norman North High School, the event will feature a keynote from NPS Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano and numerous break-out sessions on topics of interest to parents of students in grades 5-8.
The free event was developed by middle school officials and the United Way of Norman’s Destination Graduation committee with the mission of educating more parents with the specific challenges of adolescent students and getting them more connected to their middle schools.
Michelle Sutherlin, Longfellow Middle School counselor and Destination Graduation committee chair, said two years ago, the Destination Graduation committee identified that there were a lot of services in the district for elementary and high school students but not a lot for middle school students.
“They’re literally caught in the middle,” she said.
After hosting a few evenings with short sessions on ways to stay engaged and how to support their children, parents requested more sessions that were longer, Sutherlin said, which led to the development of the first full-day event.
“Middle school is a critical time for families of middle school students,” Sutherlin said. “Many times, parents back off from their student to give them space, when really the best thing a parent could do for a student is to stay involved or get involved in his or her life. We hope this conference will help parents learn ways to get or stay involved and inspire them to really connect with their child.”
The event will feature sessions to empower parents and include booths in exhibition format and mini informational sessions. Booths and mini sessions will include everything from the American Red Cross disaster preparedness to Big Brothers Big Sisters to parent resources for math.
Superintendent Dr. Joe Siano said he is grateful of the United Way’s efforts and those of dedicated NPS middle school counselors to facilitate an event that will be of high value to parents and that will feature information on everything from cyber safety, setting boundaries and understanding the teenage brain to how to get involved in your child’s school, transitioning to middle school and to high school, and preparing for college.
Sutherlin said the event was a great opportunity for parents to begin thinking about college.
“As a counselor, I think it’s never to early to start planning for college,” she said.
A free breakfast and sack lunch will be provided to those who register and attend.
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Sponsors for the event — in addition to NPS, the United Way and the Chamber — include Bramlett & Associates Multimedia, the Moore Norman Technology Center, the Norman PTA Council, the Norman Regional Health System, OG&E, Republic Bank and Trust, Sports Talk 1400 and the Y.
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