My name is Erin Waldridge and I am proud to serve as one of the assistant principals at Washington County High School. Some of my responsibilities on the leadership team include initiatives related to communication, branding, student rewards and family engagement. I am the building lead for family-friendly work and Family Friendly Certification. As the chair of our Family Friendly School Partnership Team, it is my responsibility to ensure that our school is making intentional plans and continued progress to include our families in decision-making and to continue to grow in our efforts to engage them fully in the amazing work and events that are going on in our school.
The Washington County School district decided to seek Family Friendly certification to improve the partnership between school staff, families and community members. By doing so, our district and schools aim to improve the quality of our student experiences and overall impact on our school community. The ultimate mission of the Washington County school district is for students to leave our schools being productive citizens, empowered learners, effective communicators, healthy life managers and goal-oriented initiators. As a district and at the individual school level, we are confident that a close partnership with our families is necessary to achieve these goals. Washington County Schools aims to partner with our families to celebrate our students’ successes and to provide meaningful and authentic experiences that change the landscape of learning. Diverse partnerships and backgrounds offer these types of opportunities that we all know are essential for our students. We are confident that our students deserve this type of dedication from our district and school leaders. By continuing to receive input from our families, it will provide us with a wider picture and enhanced perspective on the needs of our students.
Washington County High School first achieved certification to hold the title of a Family Friendly School during the 2021-2022 school year. When I joined the school’s leadership team at the start of the following school year, it was my first introduction to Family Friendly certification. To fully understand the process and necessary steps to continue certification, I collaborated with our middle school principal, Amanda Sagrecy who was the assistant principal in my current building before I came on board. As the former building lead who allowed Washington County High School to gain the initial Family Friendly certification, her knowledge and insight into the family engagement events and application process were invaluable. Our district’s chief academic officer, Holly Elmore, also led a Family Friendly district team. This allowed me to meet with other schools across the district to collaborate, share ideas, and clarify certain aspects of the recertification process for the upcoming school year. We analyzed what we were currently doing and what we needed to be doing to better serve our families while meeting the requirements of the certification process.
When continuing to plan on areas of need for the future, a self-assessment tool was used. This tool was provided from the Kentucky Family and School Partnership team as we began compiling documentation for our Family Friendly Certification. This assessment was completed by building leadership, staff members, and parents. The areas of relationship building, communications, shared responsibility, advocacy and community partnerships were measured by each of the stakeholders in order to better determine our school’s strengths and continued areas of focus for family engagement. This year’s assessment results revealed that our strengths lie in the areas of relationship-building and community partnerships. We recognize our weaker areas that focus on shared responsibility. To become more proficient in this area, we must empower our staff to ensure that families have multiple learning opportunities to understand how to support their student’s learning and to participate in decision-making and school improvement efforts.
For the 2023-2024 school year, the Family Engagement Team would like to continue to grow and enhance our current family engagement activities. Our school would like to find ways to encourage more families that are not being represented in any of our engagement efforts. To do so, our leadership team is working to find ways to identify and eliminate barriers that prevent our families from engaging with their students at the high school level. Additionally, Washington County High School is committed to finding a way to create relationships with our new families. A continued focus on the 9th-grade transition during the 2023-2024 school year will allow us to do that. We also would like to give attention to our new students and families who move in mid-year. In addition to our Family Engagement Nights, we would like to incorporate student-led activities and a student work showcase this school year. We want to give our students an opportunity to display their dedication to their classroom achievement. Our school has recognized a growing number of Spanish-speaking families in our community. Our goal is to improve our bilingual communications by translating some of the communication and promotional material we provide to our families. Overall, our primary goal for the upcoming school year is to improve a system of two-way communication for our families and our school. Our staff members are proud to serve the students we teach and believe that communication will improve outcomes for our students. We want Washington County High School to feel like a place that is welcoming to our families and community members. By continuing to grow our family engagement practices, we can keep our families better informed and allow them to be an equal member of the high school team as we prepare their students to become productive adult citizens.