“Schools and districts can’t just sit back and expect parents to come to them.” –Pedro Noguera
Piney Branch Action Team members put Noguera’s words into practice with two recent community outreach and engagement efforts designed to deliver information and tools directly to the school families who want and need them while also building relationships with and among those families.
A well attended MSA event was held at
Piney Branch Elementary School on February 3rd (see earlier blog post). But, even with the great parent and student turn-out at that event (more than 170 attendees!), Action Team members knew that there were still many families who wanted to attend, but couldn’t.
Assistant principal Kara Tymon’s words summed up the conviction of the team: “We need to step outside the walls of the school and take this information into the community to reach as many people as we can.”
A key decision was choosing the locales for the “out in the community” events. Team members chose carefully. Ultimately Park Ritchie Apartments and the Takoma Park Recreation Center were chosen. Park Ritchie because it is next to the school and home to many PBES families (and as such is an important place for teachers, administrators, and parent leaders to build connections). The Takoma Park Recreation Center because it is centrally located in the community that is home to many new families at the school.
Park Ritchie’s MSA event was held on February 17th. The complex’s management team was very supportive. “We’ve been looking for ways to connect to the school, so this is great,” said property manager Careese Gonzalez. Ms. Gonzalez’s team provided pizza for the event and helped with promotion.
The MSA event at the Takoma Park Rec Center was held on February 24th. The event provided an opportunity to draw even more school staff into the unique outreach and parent engagement effort. PBES paraeducator Sandra Boone runs an after-school program at the Center and already knows many of the parents. The Action Team leveraged Ms. Boone’s recognition–she promoted the event at bus stops by talking to parents and students and distributing fliers. She also was another friendly (and familiar) face greeting families on the day of the event.
The attendance at both community events was smaller than at the school-wide event. This was expected and welcomed. These community-based events had a smaller targeted audience and were designed to be more intimate. The smaller groups allowed for a less structured agenda which permitted more time for questions and answers regarding the MSA.
Parent Tulu Bacha said that he had attended the MSA Night event at the school and found it useful, but added “I didn’t understand BCRs [Brief Constructed Responses] until the teacher explained it again tonight.”
The smaller audiences were also more conducive to relationship building. “Before tonight, I didn’t know you and you didn’t know me. Now we know each other,” said a smiling Embet Erque when asked, as a parent, what she’d enjoyed most about the evening. This kind of authentic parent engagement happens when schools step forward to meet parents where they are.