Sparking a sense of school community

Parents head over to Dr. Powers’ fireside chats for school information

*indicates name has been changed

Dr. Powers’ new “fireside chats” create a line of communication between the administration and the Jones community, and parents say they are excited for the opportunity to connect as the in-person school year has begun. 

The fireside chats, a monthly virtual presentation and Q&A streamed on Jones’ YouTube channel, aim to build community and keep parents informed with key school information. 

“The goal is to keep in contact with parents, but anyone can tune in. The whole idea is to stay in contact because we have been separated so much,” said Powers. “It also compliments the Jones Eagle Update that I send out to parents.” 

Powers believes the separation over the last year and a half, due to COVID-19, has prompted a need for a new form of communication between the community and the administration. 

“We were working remotely. I felt like we were losing contact with people, not that we weren’t sending the information. But the chats helped to put a face to the information being sent out,” said Powers. 

While the chats are virtual as the school emerges from the pandemic, Powers believes these fireside chats can be adjusted as needed, such as changing the frequency or format.

“We’re very open to adapting the fireside chats, because this is already an adaptation to deal with the circumstances we’ve had,” said Powers. “If we can make it serve the needs of the school family better, then we will do so.”

Overall, parents are appreciative of the efforts made to build community, especially since there are many new members of the Jones community, namely freshman and sophomores, along with their families.

“I think it’s definitely helpful and a great way for people to connect with the administration,” said Asha Jessop, parent of Ashley Jessop ‘24, who looks forward to attending a fireside chat in the future. “The other thing too is that Jones is so much bigger than the South Loop community. These fireside chats help the principal get to know families and allow families to ask questions.” 

Since the fireside chats are presentations of the information from Jones administrations’ newsletter, May Davis*, a parent of a junior, likes how the chats offer a different way of learning about what is going on. 

“I think what it does is it allows people to find a communication medium that speaks to how they like to take in information, which I think is important,” said Davis. 

One of the ways parents ask their questions during fireside chats is by submitting their inquiries via a Google form beforehand, instead of having a live questionnaire. Some parents do not think this is the best way to create engaging meetings.

“Having prepared responses could create an opportunity to filter out questions you may not want to answer,” said Jessop. “I think having a live Q&A would be a bit more engaging.” 

While these chats do offer a source for information about what is going on at Jones, Jessop thinks there is a benefit to hosting in-person meetings when it is safe to do so. 

“It’s always great if you can have in-person meetings because you get to connect more with somebody when you’re in-person,” said Jessop. “But for the time being, I think having the virtual sessions makes sense.”

 Davis believes there are benefits to hosting chats both in-person and virtually to allow more families to take advantage of them. 

“I do think there’s a dynamic that comes when you have people in a room together and it’s a good way to build community,” said Davis. “So if I were them, I would do both. I would have it in-person and live streamed over.”

Having the fireside chats both live streamed and in-person is not the only idea Davis had to improve engagement. 

“What I wonder is, does it make sense that it’s always just Dr. Powers speaking, or would it make sense to also have other people from administration speaking in the fireside chats so that it expands people’s knowledge of who the administrative team is,” said Davis. 

However, in a post-pandemic school year, the need for community outweighs the adaptations parents desire, and they are glad to have the fireside chats to connect with what is going on at Jones. 

“I think people are hungry for information, considering both sophomore and freshman parents have never gone through an in-person school year. I think having more and frequent communication in different modes is important,” said Davis.