Last month, the Institute for Educational Leadership hosted the 2017 National Family & Community Engagement Conference in San Francisco, CA. Over 1,600 family and community members, practitioners, district leaders, and community school leaders participated! See highlights and key takeaways from three community school coordinators who attended the conference.
Stacy Darga, Community School Site Coordinator at Sun Prairie Area School District (Sun Prairie, WI):
Creating Stronger Families, Stronger Communities – again and again, throughout the conference, we kept hearing that relationships are the most important factor in building a foundation to a stronger community. This is something I believe in and have been saying since I became site coordinator at our community school. [My] “aha” moment came when the speaker said, “Instead of thinking about how can we get our families more involved in our schools and our community, we need to shift our way of thinking to how can we get more involved with our families.”
Instead of spending a lot of time and energy on trying to think of new and creative ways to get those families we don't often see involved, we will now be coming up with ways that we (as a school community) can get more involved with our families. That may mean taking events to them, be more welcoming and really getting to know our families, home visits, breakfasts with the principal and site coordinator, family volunteering opportunities inside and outside of school, and parents and family members more involved in school decision making.
We are excited to embrace this new way of thinking as we work towards engaging more families in our school and our community!
Devonne Franklin, Community School Director at the Y in Central Maryland (Baltimore, MD):
I really appreciated the amount of youth voice that is considered when planning regulations for [San Francisco]. The youth felt empowered to take action and elevate their voices. They really owned the job of making sure students' voices were a part of the legislation process. If we could replicate that in Baltimore, I know that our city would be more unified. After witnessing such a successful youth board, I will personally push for more youth voice in decision-making and suggest that we solicit their voices when making decisions.
Alexandra Cowal, Community School Coordinator at West Chicago School District 33 (West Chicago, IL):
Attending the FCE Conference is like getting a tune-up. Not only do I get to hear what other community schools around the country are doing, but I am also filled with the energy and positivity of so many people which pumps me and charges me for the year ahead. As a Community School Coordinator, one of my biggest priorities is to help families (parents and guardians) understand the importance of their involvement in their children's education. I stress over and over again how important it is for them to not only know what their children are learning, but also to understand how significant their involvement can be. The work we do is not always easy, but it is very important and as CS coordinators, we need to stay focused and positive.
*Responses were edited for length.