Knowing who does what in your child’s school–and figuring out the best ways to communicate with school staff–can help you to be effective in supporting your child’s success.

It used to be that parents called the school secretary or PTA president for basic information about what was going on at the school. While the school secretary still provides important information (see the article What Does the School Secretary Do?), many schools now have additional ways of communicating with parents.

For instance, a growing number of schools are using Web sites, voice mail systems and email to provide parents with information on upcoming school events, testing dates, school policies, and academic programs and more. An increasing number of teachers also email information to parents regarding homework assignments, field trip notices and class projects. At the elementary and middle school levels, many schools send home with students a weekly newsletter containing a full list of things going on at the school. At the high school level, the PTA often takes on the task of communicating with the parents.

Sometimes you’ll want to talk to the school to address problems or express concerns. A good rule of thumb is to begin by communicating with the person closest to your concern. For instance, if your child does not seem to have homework, it makes sense to ask the teacher for an explanation. If you don’t get an adequate response, try contacting the principal.

Sometimes you may want to call someone at the school about a highly emotional issue, such as a conflict your child may be having with another child. As a general rule, avoid calling when angry; always allow yourself a “cooling off” period before addressing a potentially divisive issue unless it’s an emergency. And remember that no matter how the situation may feel, school personnel do want to work with parents to resolve problems for students.

Key Contact Information

At the start of each school year, gather the information in the list below; keep it on hand so that when issues arise you can go straight to the right person. Some of the information below can be found on a school’s profile; other details you can learn by contacting the school itself.

  • School telephone number and school secretary name
  • PTA president name, telephone number and email address
  • School newsletter frequency
  • Principal email address
  • School Web site URL
  • Teacher email addresses and voice mail telephone numbers, if available