My name is Kimberlee Coyle and I am the principal of Berea Community Elementary (Berea Independent). I was honored to be hired in a school district last year that had already started the process of focusing the district to becoming a Family Friendly School through the Prichard Committee. This process was new to me but was exciting because I have always believed in the power of a highly-effective culture being the driving force of greater success in a school.
This process came to fruition because of the community helpers that were aligned with the school as well as the amazing people working inside the school. I worked alongside a crew of talented, driven and compassionate teachers and leaders that wanted to bring families and the school together to create a beautiful collaborative environment that would help students and families blossom.
Our greatest source of guidance through this process was Jenny Hobson, a former district employee who now works with Partners for Rural Impact. She was a wonderful resource and cheerleader to keep us focused on the things that would make this a success for our district, school, students and families.
As we dove into creating change in relationship building and how to make the school a welcoming environment, the Student Lighthouse Team partnered with Stephanie Collinsworth Diaj, CASA of Madison and Clark Counties senior volunteer coordinator, to promote the “power of families.” Families have given feedback through the Measurable Results Assessment for Berea Community Elementary to provide meaningful activities in the school that make them feel connected.
In collaboration with the school’s art teacher, our 3rd-5th grade students facilitated an art project titled “Community Columns.” We also worked on how to be culturally responsive. One way we did this was inviting family and community members inside the school for special events that focused on family and the success of students in a variety of ways. We also worked on becoming more interactive through our communication to families on a daily/weekly basis through Class Dojo and an opportunity for students to communicate their learning, goals and successes with student-led conferences at the end of the year.
Another objective was developing collaborative, embracing and equitable experiences in which we prioritized equity by providing professional development regarding equity in education and empowering staff to focus on their circle of influence. We had 12 parents participate. This professional development provided staff with ways to engage students and families equitably.
Three themes came from the training: engaging learning with powerful questions, planning with intention and looking for teachable moments, and enriching learning by modeling equity through “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” through Leader In Me. Lastly, we wanted to connect with community partnerships by bringing them to some events and meeting with them throughout the year to brainstorm ways to use them as greater resources.
These are only some examples of the things we incorporated during this process but started to ripple effects of more ideas.
Through this journey, we found that our school was doing well in many areas but with a greater lens of passion in these areas, we could thrive.
Becoming a certified Family Friendly School is something that we will continue to be proud of. The work is never done and we will continue to strengthen each area as we grow and develop as leaders and servants in our community. Going through this process enabled us to see areas of strength and areas of growth. We are thrilled and extremely grateful for this opportunity and reflective time to become an intentional school that encompasses the mission of a Family Friendly School.
Kimberlee Coyle is principal of Berea Community Elementary (Berea Independent).