Ensuring families and communities are better connected with their local school is a priority for Renton School District. It’s important for many reasons, and for many people throughout the district. As he prepared to step into the role of Superintendent this school year, Dr. Damien Pattenaude heard from many parents, students, staff, and community members who said better communication between school and families, and more opportunities for family and community engagement, were needed. Responding to that need, Dr. Pattenaude immediately included improved family and community engagement as part of the district’s core values of Service, Excellence, and Equity.
One of the ways the district is working to meet those needs is through the Family And Community Engagement (FACE) initiative. The work includes listening to parents, community members, students, and school staff to better understand their definitions and desires for what it means to be connected and engaged with schools. A workgroup of these stakeholders has begun to meet to review research that supports the impact of family engagement on student achievement; developing a common language and hallmarks of quality family engagement to frame their work; and to identify shared themes and principles to assist with setting goals.
“Through our district FACE initiative, we will open opportunities to examine our beliefs about what engagement means and how best to involve families and communities in their schools,” said Linda Hoste, the district’s Director of Categorical Programs.
The working group will continue to involve many more voices in the work by creating a district-wide survey for families, students, and staff, and conduct listening sessions across the district.
More district work to better engage families and communities in our schools include:
- The Natural Leaders program: A training program for parents to help them develop skills and learn to navigate their school system, find and share resources in their communities, and help their children and others realize college and career dreams. The program is supported by the Washington Alliance for Better Schools.
- District-level professional development to build capacity of staff in best practices including student-led conferences; home visits; academic parent-teacher teams; and other models of family engagement including:
- Honey Dew Elementary’s Parent Teacher Teams;
- Highlands Elementary’s expansion of the Renton Parent University;
- Benson Hill Elementary and McKnight Middle School’s Community Café evening events; and,
- Dimmit Middle School’s Student Led Conferences.
The district is also expanding current activities that include:
- Latino literacy classes;
- a series of classes for Highlands Elementary families to learn about Sound Discipline tools to improve communication, reduce discipline challenges, and build social-emotional skills at home
- establishing the African American Parent Engagement Team, to help families become school leaders, build relationships and improve school engagement;
- partnering with Renton Police Sargent John Awai for Spanish-language presentations to help with relationships between police officers and our Latino families; and,
- partnering with Highlands Elementary specialist teachers in PE, music, and library to incorporate family fun learning activities including dance and music lessons and getting to know how to use computer software as well as parenting classes for all families in the areas of math and reading support.