Burrell School Leaders Work to Improve Family Engagement

Hands shakingBurrell School District leaders are working to build trust and strengthen relationships among families, students, teachers, administrators, and the community. 

The goal of Parents as Allies, a program offered in partnership with the Pittsburgh-based Kidsburgh, is to work with local school districts to improve family engagement. Kidsburgh is an initiative that serves local families and caregivers with deliberate goals: to help them discover the many resources for children in the region and offer solid reporting and expert advice about the challenges of raising healthy, thriving children.

This is the second year Kidsburg partnered with districts for the Parents as Allies program. This year, more than 20 school districts were represented at the kick-off event for Parents as Allies in April, said Dr. Autumn R. Turk, the district's Director of Curriculum & Development. The Burrell district team includes teachers, parents, Turk, and Twaina Williams, a parent in the district.

"The work we are doing through Parents as Allies blends nicely with the work we've been engaged with through the Consortium for Public Education around the central topic of improved family engagement," Turk said.

District leaders hosted 10 Community Coffee Talk sessions during the end of April and early May at different locations around the community, in addition to two virtual sessions. District leaders also met with senior class students in May and teachers and administrators in June. The talks, supported by the district's partnership with the Consortium for Public Education, were held to engage the community about the purpose of school and how the educational system has shifted.

"Our goal was to listen, empathize and build trust through relationship-focused discussions and activities," Turk said. "We followed these coffee talks up with a survey to our teachers, administrators, and families in June, gathering further input about our thoughts about school. We intend to continue this discussion in the fall in collaboration with the work we are doing with the Parents as Allies group. 

Thus far, the Parents as Allies effort has included several planning and brainstorming sessions and a round of empathy interviews with various Burrell families to learn more about their school experience.

"We have spent time as a committee reviewing the feedback we received at the Coffee Talks, as well as reviewing the survey results from our family engagement survey in June," Turk said.

Turk said that district officials are planning a kickoff event later this year for the Parents as Allies initiative, perhaps to be held this fall.

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