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Shelby East Middle School Principal Josh Rhodes

At Shelby East Middle School (Shelby County Public Schools), we recognize that strong partnerships between our school and our families are essential for student success. We strive to create an environment where families feel welcomed and valued, and where their input is sought and acted upon. To build upon our focus of strong partnerships, we started researching best practices for family engagement, and we learned about the Prichard Committee’s Family Friendly Schools certificate.

Our first step in the application process was to build a committee. We formed a committee made up of teachers, staff, administrators and parents to review our current school practices and to identify areas for improvement. Members of the committee completed three hours of online training and completed a self-assessment for our school. We conducted surveys and focus groups with families to gather their input and feedback. The committee was led by our assistant principal, Robyn Marcum, who was charged with creating the focus group and seeing the certificate process through.

The certification process was a bit of a challenge in terms of the time commitment, but it was well worth it. It helped us to clearly define our goals and objectives and to assess our progress along the way. We learned through the process that we needed to make some changes to our current practices in order to meet the requirements of the certification. For example, we had to create a more structured process for both gathering and acting on family input. An expectation of the Family Friendly Schools certificate rubric was two-way communication between the school and families. We realized through the certification process that was an area of growth we could improve upon. We also had to make sure that our communication with families was more targeted and effective.

Receiving the recognition of being awarded the Family Friendly Schools certificate validated the importance of the many efforts that our staff makes to build a strong community within our school. We plan to continue our efforts to engage families and to make our school more family-friendly well into the future. We will also maintain the certification by regularly reviewing our practices and making improvements as needed.

Josh Rhodes is the principal at Shelby County East Middle School. The middle school was awarded a Family Friendly Certification in 2022.