New support for families
Rachel Cason is the district’s education ombuds. An ombuds is a trusted individual who can assist in navigating conflicts and issues. Learn more about her and how she helps students and families.
Describe your background and what led you to become the ombuds.
Previously I served as the student success coordinator for Vancouver Public Schools in the office of student welfare and attendance. In that role, I worked with high school and middle school students who were disengaged from school. I worked on identifying students’ barriers to engagement and attendance and then found placement for them in an educational program to help reconnect them to their educational pursuits. I was also responsible for implementing proactive strategies to engage youth in attending school by supporting serval district-wide initiatives to help students understand the importance of attendance and engagement. This work is something I am passionate about, and I have been working with disengaged student populations for over 14 years. I am also professionally and personally committed to ensuring all students have access to what they specifically need to achieve academic success, which is equity in practice.
After completing my master’s degree in educational leadership, I was interested in finding a new way to support student and parent engagement, foster collaboration within schools and intentionally support our district’s efforts to improve equity. I felt the role of an ombuds within a K-12 institution was a great way to transition into a new opportunity.
How do you support families?
Within this role, I will work specifically through the discipline process with students, families, schools and the community to resolve conflicts, build supportive partnerships and foster collaboration. I will provide confidential and unbiased guidance, resources, information and support when parents and students are navigating the discipline process and dealing with discipline matters within schools.
When should a parent, guardian or student reach out to you?
A parent or student can reach out when they are dealing with a discipline matter and need assistance navigating systems, understanding policies and/or communicating with school personnel, or simply need help accessing information. The ombuds is meant to serve as a bridge to facilitate and support communication and increase access to information.
How do you work to ensure that the discipline process is fair for students?
An ombuds operates by ensuring confidentiality, independence, informality and neutrality. By maintaining these tenets, I intend on providing those individuals who seek support from our office with access to information, coaching and resources that will aid in navigating any discipline matter. When opportunities for access and transparency are present, the greater the opportunity for a fair and just process.
An example of one of our efforts to improve and inform our discipline process and foster fairness is the development of a discipline process parent survey. The purpose of this survey is to assess the discipline process, procedures and the experiences held by students and parents to guide our efforts in improving our practices and expand our capacity to successfully engage with families and students.
What are some of your big goals?
- Increase awareness of the role and its offerings to both internal and external stakeholders
- Ensure that we are reaching and informing all portions of the community especially and increasing access to information about the discipline process and procedures
- Continue to build and develop the program so that we can successfully support all students and families within VPS