Engaging Every Person in Every Student's Life: 10 Strategies for Successful School/Community Partnerships
I realized long ago that student outcomes depend a lot on feeling valued and supported as learners. As principal, it has always been very important to me that our school feel welcoming to families and community members. This starts from the moment people walk into our building and continues with the presence of our teachers and students in the community. At Newberry Elementary, every child is included and every child is learning and succeeding; and because of this, we are proud to be considered an “A” school in Florida! Following are the top 10 strategies you will see in place at Newberry that I believe make our school a welcoming community for everyone:
1. Accelerated Reader Nights – We encourage families to read together, as well as reinforce the practice of reading every night, by opening our Media Center to families one night a month during the school year and one night a week during the summer.
2. Family Picnics – We host a family picnic once in the fall and once in the spring. The picnics take place on the grassy area near our bus circle which we cover with blankets, and we enjoy bag lunches or picnic baskets brought by families and classes. Everyone loves these picnic days. Even if it rains we have the picnic on the floor of the cafeteria!
3. Lunch Tables for Parents – We encourage parents to come to the school to eat lunch with their children and have tables in our cafeteria specifically for this purpose. Children can choose a friend to join them at lunch, which is a special treat for both the kids and parents.
4. Learning Community – Our school partners with the local university and their teacher preparation program to host future teachers. We have interns in 17 of our classrooms this year. The benefits are twofold: the college students get to learn about inclusion and we are better able to meet the needs of kids thanks to extra educators in our classrooms.
5. Positive Behavior Celebrations – As part of our Schoolwide Positive Behavior Supports program, our students earn “Skybucks” that they can use to attend special events during the school year. Events include a game day, field day, movie day, and a dance that our School Resource Officer DJs! Our parents volunteer and provide snacks for these events.
6. Food Backpacks – Our community food bank brings backpacks of food to the school on Fridays for needy students to take home, ensuring they have food for the weekend, and parents can also contribute to the program. In addition, we also provide soup bowls for a local Community Soup Day raising money for the hungry.
7. Serving in the Community – As Principal of the school, I serve on our local Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Council, and have coached for the local Recreation Department. This involvement outside of the school forms strong partnerships with parents, students, and community members.
8. Involving the Mayor – Our local mayor writes letters to students throughout the year regarding contests, “Citizens of the Month,” and other recognitions. He visits the school and is always looking to recognize student successes.
9. Newspaper Highlights – A grandparent of a former student writes a weekly column in the local newspaper, and always highlights events at the school, as well as recognitions received by teachers and students.
10. Helping Families – Our school is involved in many events that help families including the American Cancer Society’s “Jump Rope for Heart” and “Relay for Life;” a coat drive organized by local churches; and a yearly 5K run benefitting muscular dystrophy research. School staff, parents, and community members go above and beyond to help families, and play a big part in those successes.
- Lacy Redd