Kelli Abney

Kelli Abney

As a principal of a public school, I strive every day to enhance and cultivate genuine relationships with the families of the students I serve. I am a lifelong resident of Menifee County, and I have spent the last 18 years of my career working in education in my hometown.

I’ve actively sought ways to serve both my school and community. Over the past six years, I have served as a school administrator in Menifee County and currently hold the position of principal at Menifee Central, a K-8 school with a population of about 630 students. As a third-year principal, the decision to recertify and participate in the Family Friendly Schools process was an easy one.

The tools and resources provided by the Family Friendly Schools initiative offer ideas that can be implemented as part of our continuous improvement efforts. The professional learning opportunities provided through the network have assisted my school in developing systems to increase parent engagement. Our school’s mission and vision align with the requirements for meeting Family Friendly Certification, emphasizing our commitment to supporting the well-being of all our students and providing support to our staff and families.

This year, we continued our efforts to increase collaboration, communication, and remove barriers for our families. Our family engagement team participated in professional learning provided by the network. Additionally, I attended online network meetings where collaboration with other schools allowed for the sharing of progress and ideas to enhance family engagement. The professional learning modules proved to be valuable tools in helping us understand our role at school and reinforcing that it is our responsibility to collaborate with our families.

The family engagement team used the assessment tool provided by the network to gauge the current state of our schools, determining our strengths and areas for growth. Our Family Friendly space, located near the entrance of our school, has been instrumental in conducting parent meetings, including ARCs, and parent engagement sessions addressing attendance and behavior. We collaborated with community agencies and our family resource and youth services coordinator (FRYSC) to provide informative materials for parents in the room, creating an inviting space where open communication facilitates collaboration to ensure the success of their child.

We have worked to create positive changes, involving our families more in their child’s education. Our school-based decision making (SBDM) council annually reviews our parent engagement policy to ensure our focus remains on families becoming advocates for their child. Redefining family engagement has been a powerful change in our school, helping us understand that we must actively create partnerships with all our families to promote the child’s learning and development. Our new policy emphasizes encouraging parents to communicate high expectations, monitor their child’s performance, provide a supportive learning environment at home, guide their child’s education, and be advocates for their child.

Our school applied for recertification in October, ensuring we documented our work throughout the year to provide evidence supporting our growth in removing barriers with families to improve relationships. The Family Friendly Schools network effectively communicated its expectations and certification requirements. The Menifee Central Family Engagement Team documented our work throughout the year, aiding in completing the recertification document. Evidence in our narratives highlighted engagement opportunities throughout the school year. This year, we worked to reduce barriers by collaborating with community partners to add a doctor’s office within our school and incorporating our therapy dog, Ace. Staff, parents and community members collaborated to develop our district’s Portrait of Learner, encompassing the characteristics we aim for every student to achieve. We successfully completed the recertification application at our own pace and within the timelines established by the Prichard Committee.

I encourage all schools to review the process and consider applying for certification. Our school plans to recertify again in the spring, utilizing the assessment tool to ensure improvement. We will document our progress using sign-in sheets, flyers, and photographs, with a specific focus on increasing relationships with non-traditional families through the implementation of our relatives raising children support group, in partnership with our FRYSC and University of Kentucky extension office. We eagerly anticipate our continued partnership with our families and community partners.