Just ten minutes of talking with Principal Dawn Moore, principal of Paul L. Dunbar School and Ms. Haydee Delgado, School Improvement Support Liaison at Dunbar School, shows how much heart goes behind connecting with families at Dunbar. Oftentimes people think that all it requires to have family engagement at schools is monetary resources, but Principal Moore and Ms. Delgado show that the heart and willingness to engage with families makes a huge difference! When Principal Moore first joined the Dunbar community ten years ago, it was important to her that the school leadership engaged with families. Back then, there were many after-school programs in place at Dunbar that helped families touch base with the school on a regular basis, but throughout the years, the number of ways that families can get involved at Dunbar has only continued to increase!
One can see how much families are valued at Dunbar through the various events and programs that are held throughout the school year. Every year there is a slew of academic nights that are held to bridge the gap between what is learned at school and how to support students at home. Every year, there is a Literacy Night to promote reading and literacy skills, a Science Night, a math workshop (Make and Take), and a PSSA pep rally with families. The administration at Dunbar feels strongly about is all students being celebrated, hence, they also try to hold various award ceremonies for students throughout the year, and families can come and cheer on their students and learn how to continue those learning practices at home. Another exciting event at Dunbar is the annual Fun Day that takes place at the end of the year when many families can get involved in the planning and execution of the event.
However, Principal Moore and Ms. Delgado don’t just want family engagement to be limited to events that take place once in a while. They are constantly brainstorming ways that parents can stay involved throughout the entire year! Parents can be a part of the site selection of new staff, chaperone classroom trips, and volunteer in classrooms. Another way to get involved at Dunbar is through monthly School Advisory Council (SAC) meetings. At SAC meetings, parents can collaborate with, give ideas to, and look at school data with Principal Moore in order to plan for the future together. And the ways to get involved doesn’t stop there! Next year, Principal Moore plans to have homeroom parents who represent each classroom. Through these homeroom representatives, she is hoping that there would be a variety of grades represented and a way for multiple voices to be heard. Through these homeroom parents, she is hoping to have a regular group of classroom parents who can consistently be involved.
When asked how they think of new ideas for families to be involved, Principal Moore expressed that often families themselves are the ones to give new ideas. She shared about grandparents and parents at Dunbar who share their ideas about ways to increase attendance or have spirit days like dress-down days or twin day. Principal Moore believes it is critical that parents feel comfortable to drop by and give their thoughts and opinions and that having an open line of communication and being welcoming to parents is a key to developing great collaboration and teamwork.
When asked what makes family engagement special at Dunbar, Principal Moore explains: “The parents who are vested are very committed in the school and the programs. Those parents go the extra mile.” Her natural reaction is to treat them like a big family and welcome them when they come into the school. Principal Moore and Ms. Delgado believe that parents are an integral part of their school that makes up “One Band, One Sound.” Through Principal Moore and Ms. Delgado’s example, we can see that we should not underestimate the power of their willingness and hearts! They would encourage all schools to be sincerely open. They share: “Be open and invite the families in.” A word of advice for parents? Principal Moore advises to just be open and ask your child’s teacher ways to be involved in the classroom or school.
Principal Moore says that family engagement at Dunbar is “ever evolving. We don’t profess to be the best at it. Always keep it in the forefront of your mind, and try to evolve it. It’s easy to say they [parents] are not coming, so I’m going to give up. Just keep on going.” Through the persistence of the leadership at Dunbar, this school has seen consistently growing family engagement! We celebrate the heart and hard work of school staff and families alike who desire to find new ways to partner together!