Falmouth Volunteers In Public Schools (VIPS) Volunteer Handbook
About Falmouth VIPS
Thank you for your interest in volunteering in Falmouth Public Schools!
Falmouth’s VIPS is one of the largest public school volunteering programs in the state, with just under 1,000 active volunteers. Each year, VIPS volunteers log over 40,000 hours and, in doing so, have enhanced the educational experience of Falmouth’s 3,500+ pre-Kindergarten to high school students. Our volunteers give their time and energy based on their schedule and interests—whether it be a once a year event to weekly or even daily contributions. Whatever your availability, know that you will be making a huge difference!
What is VIPS?
In short, VIPS is you! VIPS was initiated in 1982 as a way to involve the community in public education in Falmouth. What started out as eight individuals volunteering in one school has grown to include 1,000 active volunteers in all seven schools. VIPS is a volunteer corps, coordinated by a paid director and administrative assistant, and overseen by a board of advisors. As a nonprofit organization whose paid staff members are employees of the Falmouth Public Schools, VIPS advisory board members represent local organizations, businesses, and community members who have an interest in Falmouth public schools. These individuals help promote the need for and benefits of volunteering and work to raise funds that support school-based programming.
Falmouth VIPS encourages, trains and supports volunteers of all ages to work with students, faculty and administration, and helps to facilitate partnerships between the schools and community residents, businesses and organizations.
How can you contribute?
The needs are great and the possibilities are almost endless… For most volunteer positions, no experience is necessary and no special skills are required. Your willingness to help will qualify you for many jobs, ranging from a one-time event to a weekly commitment. However, opportunities do exist for volunteers with special skills, interests, and backgrounds. Some opportunities require training which VIPS will provide.
A list of general needs—some available at all schools; others geared for elementary-age students—is followed by a brief description of some of our core volunteer programs:
Classroom or Student-based Opportunities
Art Appreciation/Arts Alive
Books and Beyond
Resource speaker for various subjects
Correcting student work
Phone calls, Mailings
Opportunities based on Skills, Interests
Photography (digital or film)
Audio-visual (animations, podcasting, presentations)
Career development, guidance
Programs in Need of Volunteers
School-based Mentoring, or “Project RISE (Raising Interest & Self Esteem)”
An in-school mentoring program that provides students with a kind, caring adult to serve as a friend and role model. Mentors and mentees meet during the school day for one hour each week throughout the school year. VIPS’ school-based mentoring program has achieved the highest level of membership with the Mass Mentoring Partnership’s quality-based membership program. For high school-aged students, mentors attempt to create positive changes in teen/adult perceptions and in teen decision-making and behavior patterns. Ongoing training and networking is provided for mentors, as well as occasional field trips and group activities.
FHS College Mentoring Program
This program matches eligible high school juniors and seniors with a volunteer who is currently working in or recently retired from the career field in which the student is interested in pursuing. Trained and supervised by a program coordinator, the volunteer is matched one-to-one with a student to provide advice, guidance, and encouragement as the student navigates his or her way through the college preparation process. Meetings with the student at the high school, along with 1-2 college visits (arranged by the program coordinator) are required.
Girls Circle is a research-based group model for adolescent girls proven to increase girls’ self-esteem, body image, and social support. Volunteer Girls Circle group facilitators administer an age-appropriate, strength-based, skill-building curriculum to create a safe space for girls to build self-confidence, personal strength, and improve communication and relationships. Each session is limited to 10 participants and led by two co-facilitators. Themes include being a girl, trusting ourselves, friendships, body image, goals, competition, and decision-making. Facilitator training, materials, and ongoing support provided.
Literacy—volunteers work with English Language Learners (ELL) who may be in need of translation assistance or extra help. Volunteers and students meet with a student at the student’s school at a mutually convenient time; frequency varies depending on the situation.
Career Advice and Internships—volunteers who can share their passion for a career field or profession are needed for career fairs, career exploration activities, internships, and providing guidance and advice. Events are run at various levels throughout the year.
CAST (Cross Age Science Teaching)—Junior high school students at Lawrence School are trained to teach hands-on, inquiry-based science lessons to elementary school students. Volunteers are currently needed to coordinate this program (training provided).
Business Partnerships in Education—individual schools or school-based programs work with a business or organization to develop a mutually beneficial program that enhances the educational experience of the students. Together, the business/organization and the school, classroom, or program establish a structure for the sharing of resources, which may include (but is not limited to) knowledge, skills, time, space, or materials. Examples include: local bank branches partnering with students to learn applied math; local scientific institutions partnering with the schools to provide career and topic-specific speakers; local elder care facility partnering with neighborhood school to foster inter-generational relationships.
Other Volunteer Needs
VIPS School Liaisons—critical to the smooth operation of volunteers in each school, the VIPS school liaisons help oversee and manage volunteers in each school. They act as the “eyes and ears” in the schools, helping to identify staff needs for volunteers and assisting the VIPS staff in the placement of volunteers. School liaisons are provided with initial training and ongoing support in the form of regular meetings and communications.
VIPS Project Leaders—As key members of the VIPS team, program leaders manage and provide support for existing VIPS programs or work with VIPS staff to design and set up new programs to fill school/faculty/student needs. Have an idea for a program? VIPS would love to hear from you!
VIPS Board of Advisors—In addition to the generous support VIPS receives from the school budget, the VIPS board of advisors is responsible for raising a portion of the VIPS operating budget. Major fundraisers include an annual golf tournament, the Feasts of Falmouth & Beyond, the Elementary Track Meet, along with smaller events. VIPS is always in need of event and program sponsors, as well as donations of raffle items and prizes. In addition, VIPS has board subcommittees that offer opportunities for volunteers in the following areas: Finance, Outreach, and Student Programming.
I’d love to volunteer! What do I do next?
Make your interest known to someone in the VIPS network:
- At a school, the office staff can put you in touch with the VIPS School Liaisons or you can leave your contact information and they will get in touch with you.
- If you are interested in volunteering but do not have an affiliation with, or preference for, a particular school, contact the VIPS office at (508) 548-1621 or by e-mail at email@example.com
- If you have a particular program that has captured your interest and would like to learn more or sign up for training, call the VIPS office and we will put you in touch with the appropriate Program Leader.
In order to volunteer in any capacity, there are some forms to fill out:
VIPS Volunteer Registration Form—a one-page form that requests contact information, volunteer preferences if known, emergency contact information, and a reference (can be filled out online, www.falmouthvips.org/register-with-vips.html)
CORI (Criminal Offender Record Information) Form—a one-page form that must be filled out and signed by an authorized representative witnessing a photo ID, such as driver’s license or passport. These forms—and staff authorized to witness and sign the CORI forms—are available at all Falmouth schools, the Falmouth Public Schools administration building (340 Teaticket Highway, E. Falmouth), and at the VIPS office. For more information about the CORI form or process, visit www.doe.mass.edu/lawsregs/advisory/CORI.html.
Getting Ready to Volunteer
Interested, but uncertain of the program that best fits your skills or interests? Arrange a time to meet with—or speak to—a School Liaison or the VIPS director. During this informal conversation, the building coordinator will learn more about your background, interests, experiences, and skills.
If you have an interest in a certain school (perhaps it is closest to your home or place of employment), or a certain age group, this should be shared, as well as your availability (weekly? monthly? do you travel in the winter?) Based on this conversation, the building coordinator will match your preferences, skills, and schedule with a request or need expressed by a teacher or school staff member.
Once a mutually agreeable referral/match has been made—and required paperwork is submitted—the volunteer can get to work! Tours of the school and introductions to the staff can also be arranged by the building coordinators.
Volunteer Safety and Emergency Procedures
In the case of a medical emergency or in the event that someone must reach you while you are volunteering, we ask that all volunteers fill out the VIPS Registration Form and provide the following:
- Any and all relevant medical information that may assist medical professionals in the event you are experiencing a medical emergency (conditions, medications, special instructions)
- Emergency contacts (Name, Cell phone, Home phone)
Occasionally, schools conduct safety practice drills, including Fire Drills, Lockdown Drills and Evacuation Drills. If one of these events should take place while you are at the school volunteering, please report to the nearest classroom or office and follow the instructions provided by a school employee. This may involve exiting the building quickly or reporting to a classroom where you will be asked to follow safety precautions. The use of cell phones is not permitted during such drills. In the event of an actual emergency, you will be required to follow the instruction and guidance of school personnel. Each school has similar, though not identical procedures for such drills, so always follow instructions. Your cooperation in such situations is required and necessary for your own safety as well as the safety of the students and staff in the building.
Falmouth VIPS has an obligation to Falmouth Public Schools students and staff members, and volunteers, to maintain their confidentiality and to respect their privacy. Every person served by Falmouth VIPS has the right to confidentiality. At the same time, every VIPS volunteer must use his or her best judgement. If you are aware of an issue that requires immediate attention, especially if it involves volunteers, please direct your concern immediately to the School principal, or the VIPS Director.
All VIPS volunteers are expected to agree to, sign, and adhere to the following statement:
As a VIPS volunteer, I understand that it is my responsibility to maintain the confidentiality of any employee or student information, both written and verbal. I will take any matter of concern to the school principal and/or the VIPS director and will not make any statements regarding students, personnel, or student materials outside the school.
Harassment and Discrimination
Falmouth VIPS is committed to providing a positive work and volunteer environment free from discrimination and bias. Each volunteer is personally responsible for maintaining this type of environment. Falmouth VIPS prohibits any actions, words, jokes, or comments based on an individual’s race, sex, sexual preferences, ethnic background, age, religion, physical condition, or other legally protected characteristic. Any conduct or action, whether overt or subtle, which creates an offensive or hostile work or volunteer environment is prohibited and will be grounds for immediate disciplinary action.
Falmouth VIPS prohibits any harassment between volunteers, employees, or other non-employee on the basis of sex. No volunteer, male or female, should be subjected to unsolicited or unwelcome sexual overtones and conduct, either verbal or physical. Misconduct applies to males and females, and includes harassment between individuals of both sexes and the same sex.
Any volunteer who believes he or she is a victim of sexual or discriminatory harassment is encouraged to let the harasser know that his or her behavior is unwelcome. In addition, volunteers who believe they have been harassed must immediately report the matter to the School Liaison or VIPS staff member.
Volunteer Responsibilities and Conduct
- Complete the necessary paperwork (VIPS Registration, CORI form)
- Attend information session, orientation or training session (if applicable), or meet with school liaison or program contact person to understand your role and what is expected of you
- Use discretion and treat all information as confidential (see Volunteer Confidentiality Statement); Make no statements regarding students, personnel, or student materials outside the school.
- Be dependable and punctual, sign in upon entering the school (and sign out before leaving), and wear a volunteer badge (available at the sign-in desk) when volunteering the school.
- Make arrangements ahead of time with the teacher if unable to attend when expected. If there is a last minute emergency, notify school office to relay the information to the teacher or staff member. In case of inclement weather, volunteers should check for school cancellations, delays, or early dismissal notices on district website (www.falmouth.k12.ma.us) or local radio stations, or by calling the school and listening to the automated phone prompts for school cancellations.
- Work under the direction and supervision of teacher or school staff member with whom you volunteer. The relationship is at all times professional.
- Support the teacher or school staff member and recognize that content, technique, and discipline is the staff member’s responsibility.
- Avoid expressing differences of opinion or dissatisfaction in the presence of students.
- Take matters of concern to the VIPS School Liaison and/or the VIPS director.
- Observe the rules of the school, including but not limited to parking, sign-in, fire alarm or lockdown drill procedures, etc.
- Log hours each and every time you visit school, including hours spent off-site preparing for a project or volunteer session. This can also be done online at www.falmouthvips.org
Disclaimer: Falmouth VIPS has the right to reassign or terminate volunteers from an assignment or position at our discretion or that of the school principal.
What to do if you are unable to meet your commitment
- Contact the school and speak to someone in the Main Office and ask that they notify your supervisor or the staff person for whom you volunteer.
- If you know that you will be absent for an extended period of time, give your volunteer contact sufficient lead time so that they may find someone to fill in during your absence. If possible, state the duration of your absence if known in advance.
School Phone Numbers
East Falmouth Elementary: (508) 548-1052
Mullen-Hall Elementary: (508) 548-0568
North Falmouth Elementary: (508) 563-2334
Teaticket Elementary: (508) 548-1550
Morse Pond School: (508) 548-7300
Lawrence School: (508) 548-0606
Falmouth High School: (508) 540-2200
With 34 years of overseeing an ever-increasing number of volunteers in Falmouth’s public schools, the VIPS program can attribute much of its success to good advice, feedback, and a willingness to make changes when necessary. No program is perfect; change is healthy—it can represent both a recognition of and response to changing needs. As such, VIPS welcomes, depends on, feedback from our volunteers, building coordinators, program leaders, board members, and school staff.
If, for any reason, your volunteer experience is unsatisfactory, we want to hear about it. (The same goes for satisfactory experiences!)
The following list of self-evaluation questions are well-worth reviewing before you begin your volunteer experience and at any time you feel there is a “disconnect” between you and your assigned staff member:
- Have I shared with the staff member my skills and interests that are relevant to my volunteer service?
- Am I discreet and tactful in working with students, teachers, and staff members? Am I careful to observe the confidentiality rules?
- When I am unable to make a pre-arranged volunteer time, do I contact the school promptly?
- Am I reliable and prompt?
- Do I make suggestions as to how I can be of further help?
- Am I effective in helping children who have questions?
- Do I make an effort to learn by observing the staff person and the students?
- Am I able to accept criticism or suggestions?
- Do I take advantage of training opportunities to enhance my skills as a volunteer?
- Do I share my enthusiasm for my work at school with friends and community members?
In some cases, volunteers find that they would like to try something new. We have many unmet needs, so get in touch with us and we will work with you to find another position or program that can utilize your energy, enthusiasm, and interests!
Why is it so important to Log Hours?
VIPS volunteers should be familiar with the Volunteer Sign-in Sheet or Log Book at each school. The VIPS staff and the VIPS school liaisons are constantly sending reminders and leaving notes to remind volunteers to log their hours! Why do we care so much about counting hours? The log book and sign-in sheet are important for a variety of reasons; here are the big ones:
- VIPS keeps records about its volunteers and the hours they log at each school, each year to track changes in the program over time.
- VIPS volunteer hours play an important role in grant applications for VIPS, individual schools, PTOs, and the district when outside funding is sought for existing and new programs, training opportunities, and recognition events.
- Volunteer work is important for students and adults when applying for colleges, jobs, other volunteer positions, and community service work
- The school in which you are volunteering needs to know when you are in the building for safety reasons
- If you are ever injured while volunteering, the sign-in sheet would serve as a record that you were in the school at the time of an incident