A woman smiles in front of an 'L' sign designed to make it look like it's made of bricks.

Jennifer McMillen is the director of student services for Ludlow Independent Schools.
Photo provided by Jennifer McMillen.

“Together We Prowl” guides the students, families, teachers and leaders in the Ludlow Independent School District. Those words are more than a motto in this close-knit school district nestled along the banks of the Ohio River, just across from Cincinnati; they are a way of life. It was only fitting that Ludlow Independent be the first to receive the designation of “Family Friendly” school district, having all schools certified. Its unique, small-town setting provides a sense of community that serves as the bedrock for the families that call Ludlow home.

Under the guidance of Superintendent Mike Borchers, who has spent his entire career serving the students and families of Ludlow, the district has kept relationship-building with families at the top of the priority list. Superintendent Borchers is proud of the certification and what it means for staff and families.

“We are honored to have been named the first district earning the Family Friendly Certification. Our schools work together as one, so it made sense that they work together to both be certified,” he said. “Our community deserves the fruits of this important work. We owe it to them to be the best we can be. ‘Together We Prowl’ is our go-to phrase, but it truly encapsulates what this process means to us. We know that by partnering better together with families, our schools, our students, and ultimately our community, we will flourish.”

When Superintendent Borchers brought up the idea of the certification process to our district’s leadership team members, we were more than anxious to proceed. The idea of self-assessment in the area of family engagement was a great next phase in the work. The team proceeded through each step of the Family Friendly Schools Certification process provided by the Prichard Committee. The two items our team found most helpful were the Self-Assessment Tool, which partners with the online training, as well as the Digital Playbook. The leadership team worked diligently together with teachers and parents to go through the items. The self-assessment helped indicate our direction and focus as a district as we moved forward.

Building relationships is essential in everything Ludlow staff members do to help kids find success. Obviously, teachers are at the center of this work to bond with families and foster engagement, but so are many others in the district. Principals, counselors, food service staff, Family Resource and Youth Service Center (FRYSC) staff, 21st CCLC staff and district leaders all go above and beyond to engage Ludlow’s families.

Tonya Brummer is in her second year as the principal at Mary A. Goetz Elementary and was an important partner in providing support far beyond the classroom.

“One thing that stood out to me when I was first hired as a principal in Ludlow is that this district does so much to support our students and families,” she said. “We not only provide support for basic needs, but we truly care about the education of our families so they become stronger family units and stronger supporters of their child’s education. Earning the Family Friendly Certificate was wonderful validation that we are providing our families with valuable support, resources, learning and engagement opportunities. We are proud to be a Family Friendly school district.”

Working through the self-assessment opened the eyes of all of us helping with this work. The district offered a wide variety of events and activities for families, but this process made our staff members realize that there is so much more to true family engagement. The district is still in the early stages in a few areas of the assessment but we are committed to the work. We will push on with our Parent Action Team to continue with training, evaluation, feedback, involvement and genuine engagement.

I believe Ludlow High School Principal Travis Caudill sums up the work the best.

“Strengthening the relationships with our families is one of the most important things we can do as educators,” he said. “Partnering together with authentic two-way conversations, building a space where they feel trusted and respected, and giving families a voice are all pieces of the puzzle that elevate a student’s chances for success.”

Together We Prowl!

Jennifer McMillen is the director of student services for Ludlow Independent Schools. A 27-year educator, McMillen was previously a special needs teacher and high school guidance counselor before her current position.