By Susan Riddell
Denise Strong, a parent of two children in the Henderson County school district, had some concerns prior to the start of the school year.
Those concerns mainly involved her youngest son, Jordan.
“He’s switching to South Heights (Elementary School) this year, and he’s nervous,” she said. “Everything is new.”
But Strong’s concerns were heard by teachers who knocked on her door as part of the district’s second annual Home Visit Blitz. This effort “showed me just how much these teachers care about my kids,” Strong said. “It makes me feel better about them having a good school year.”
The parent outreach event involved district staff splitting into teams to knock on nearly 7,000 doors in a day’s time. Teachers introduced themselves to parents and students, and handed them bags filled with important school information.
“The Home Visit Blitz in Henderson County is an important event because parent engagement is such a critical part of the state’s college- and career-ready agenda,” said Education Commissioner Terry Holliday, a participant in the day’s activities. “It’s vital that parents and teachers create a strong partnership so they can work together in the schools and at home to facilitate student achievement.”
Henderson County High School Principal Sally Sugg echoed the commissioner’s comments, saying the goal of the blitz was to build relationships between home, community and school prior to the start of the school year.
“One of things I told my staff is that we can no longer meet parents half way,” Sugg said. “They have so many things going on; meeting with a teacher might not be at the top of their list. We need to seek them out.
“I know at every house I visited, the parents were so appreciative to have someone come to their home,” Sugg added. “All the teachers came back and shared success stories. For some, it totally changed the way they look at their students.”
During his visit to homes in the Henderson County district, Holliday had the opportunity to discuss the upcoming PLAN test for sophomore Kalen Thomas.
Henderson County High teacher Brandi Thomas answered questions from family members of a special education student.
While on one of the visits, English teacher Andrea Tilly encountered a young woman who had dropped out of school after becoming pregnant.
The girl asked Tilly if the high school offered daycare.
“I told her to go back to the school today and who she could talk to while there,” Tilly said. “I wanted her to do something about it today while it was on her mind, because tomorrow it might not be. It was a great opportunity to speak with her and answer her questions.”
It’s common for parent involvement to be strong at the beginning of each school year, but that involvement tends to drop off as children get older and school years progress. Sugg said her district has come up with ways to prevent that drop off.
“It’s so important for teachers to maintain these connections with families throughout the school year,” she said. “Middle school and high schools still need parents to be involved, and we’re making concerted efforts to include parents as much as possible.”
“Every school in our district will have a CIPL-trained parent,” Sugg said. “They are bringing the training to Henderson County where before parents had to go to Louisville. It has really infused a lot of excitement with our parents, and we know this training will be a boost in sustaining relationships throughout the year.”
Sally Sugg, firstname.lastname@example.org, (270) 831-8800