First Stop, Community Engagement

Your school’s reputation depends on your ability to communicate and listen. You have to give your community a voice and develop a strong brand—one parents and others regard with trust. That, or risk losing students and families to competitors that will.

That means meeting community members where they are—whether that’s on social media, at board meetings, or in the local supermarket. It might mean sending out surveys, or hosting town halls, or listening tours, for example.

In Winston-Salem, N.C., a pair of school district staff members recently went the extra mile for parents–literally.

A classroom on wheels
In a region of the state where nearly 99 percent of students are on free-and-reduced price lunch, it isn’t uncommon for parents to lack the transportation, or the gas money, to attend important school meetings. Unwilling to make excuses, involvement coordinators Javier Correa-Vega and Denise McCoy decided to take community engagement to these parents.

Correa-Vega and McCoy used a $5,000 grant from Lowe’s Home Improvement to purchase an old school bus and, with the help of students, fashioned it into a “classroom on wheels.” A subsequent grant from a local credit union was used to customize the rolling meeting space with electricity, wi-fi, furniture, computers, even a mini day-care area.

Correa-Vega and McCoy drive the “Parental Involvement Mobile Unit” to neighborhoods when parents can’t make it to the school, offering curbside access to everything from GED classes to parent-teacher conferences to courses on transportation safety.

“What [the bus] does is try to look for an alternative,” Kenyatta Bennett, principal at Philo-Hill Middle School told the Winston-Salem Journal. “To perhaps meet parents and families where they are.”

The mobile unit aims to close the achievement gap by making it easier for parents to stay engaged in their child’s education. Not unlike the concept of community schools, the bus frees parents to focus on their child’s academic success. Check out this video for more:

Know your audience
Is building a state-of-the-art school bus the solution to stronger community engagement in your district?  Maybe not.

But the sheer lengths to which Correa-Vega and McCoy have gone to create connections with parents in the state’s poorest communities underscore the value that schools place on parent connections. There is no barrier that cannot be overcome.

Does your district go the extra mile to support parent and community involvement? Tell us in the comments.

Looking for a way to engage parents using all the ways they communicate, all in one place? Get started today.

Author: Todd Kominiak

Todd Kominiak is Managing Editor of TrustED.

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