What Educators Can Learn from Chick-fil-a

Have you ever dealt with an angry and disgruntled parent?  This can be a very time consuming, stressful, and discouraging situation.  It can be even worse if the parent decides to share the negative experience about the school on television, social media, or within the community.  Some schools encounter parents like this on a daily basis.  While it may be easy to blame the parent for these uncomfortable encounters, the real problem could be a weak or ineffective connection between the family and the school.

When parents constantly feel underappreciated, undervalued, and unimportant, this is often a powerful wake-up call that should alert educators to an underlying serious problem within the classroom or school.  Unfortunately, some educators may not even realize that a problem exists.

As educators, it is so easy to get quite consumed with issues relating to accountability, instruction, and discipline.  These challenging issues can cause educators to overlook one of the most important areas of focus for every school: customer service.  This is a critical area that can make or break any school or business.  Why do some schools clearly excel in this area while others struggle?  What can educators learn about effective customer service from the restaurant industry which strives to make the customer experience a top priority?


Chick-fil-A is fantastic example of exemplary customer service in the restaurant industry.  Customers always rave about their kind and hardworking employees, efficient service, and overall cleanliness. Chick-fil-A ensures that their customers always have a great experience during each visit.  Imagine if our schools could create an amazing customer service experience for every family each day?   When we modify our paradigm and view parents as our most valuable customers, we can completely transform and deepen relationships between families and schools.  When parents feel appreciated, they become better partners and advocates for the school.   

In the publication, Louder than Words, educators are provided with the five tenets of customer service that are critical to establishing a pervasive customer service culture within the school.  Practical strategies are provided to help schools create an atmosphere that honors, appreciates, and welcomes all families.  For example, a school could create a Parent / Student panel presentation at the end of the year to provide diverse parents and students with the opportunity to share their thoughts about the school without mentioning any names.   This is a valuable strategy to demonstrate humility because staff members can gain a deeper level of understanding and respect for families by learning about some of the challenges that are encountered by students and parents during the year.

The publication, Louder than Words, is packed full of amazing ideas to support an exceptional customer service atmosphere in your school.  Just as Chick-fil-A has created raving customers, our schools can create raving families! 

Educators Have to Learn Too – ESSA & Professional Learning

The Background

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), the nation’s newest education law, redefines the standards for high-quality professional development for teachers and K-12 leaders.

Why is that important?

At least one national observer says the law could have a significant impact in moving schools away from the one-day workshop model that has dominated professional development for years and toward a new, more personalized—and more highly effective—approach.

ESSA updates this definition by stating: “The term ‘professional development’ means activities that … are sustained (not stand-alone, 1-day, or short-term workshops), intensive, collaborative, job-embedded, data-driven, and classroom focused.” (S. 1177, Section 8002, page 295, paragraph 42)

In other words, professional development should be an ongoing process that is seamlessly woven into a teacher’s experience throughout the year, the law says—and not just a series of unconnected, “sit and get” workshops.

There are two other terms that show up repeatedly within ESSA to describe the kinds of professional development activities the law should fund: “personalized” and “evidence-based.”

For example, under Section 2103, the law lists “providing high-quality, personalized professional development that is evidence-based” among the activities intended for funding under Title II, Part A: Supporting Effective Instruction. (S. 1177, page 127, paragraph E)

Just as students benefit from opportunities for personalized learning, teachers and school leaders do as well, the law implies—and it directs funding to professional development activities that are grounded in research and targeted to educators’ specific needs. (Summarized from ESSA Redefines Professional Development for Teachers. Are You Ready for This Shift? By Dennis Pierce)

The Challenge

When school districts commit to offering more personalized professional development then challenges arise, namely how they will;

·         Deliver consistently high quality, aligned, differentiated professional learning for teachers and principals?

·         Unify professional development opportunities in a district with a culture of site-driven decision-making?

·         Shift people from a compliance mindset to a growth mindset?

·         Address the time pressures that everyone feels?

·         Give teachers more power to choose their own pathway?

·         Leverage new technologies to address persistent professional development issues?

One Solution

Successful Innovations, Inc. is the creator of the nation’s largest family engagement conference for educators and has dedicated seven years to providing educators with consistently high quality professional development through the National Family Engagement Summit and subsequent follow-up, on-site professional learning opportunities.  This year is no different!  The 2018 National Family Engagement Summit will be held on March 21-23, 2018 in Richmond, VA.  The Summit promises some of the most intellectual and thought-provoking leaders in education to help attendees improve their content knowledge, pedagogical knowledge and skills which will lead to improved instructional practices and greater student achievement.  The National Family Engagement Summit focuses on providing educators from all across the nation with proven, research-based solutions and techniques for impacting school reform efforts and for conquering demographic, socioeconomic, equity and diversity challenges.  Join us for three days with some of the nation’s leading family engagement experts; keynote speakers – Ravi, Dr. Adolph Brown and Dr. Todd Whitaker, break-out presenters- Dr. James Casale, Ph.D., J. Michael Hall, Dr. Sal Romero, and many more, and round table experts-Dr. Aaron Spence, Kris Amundson, and many more and colleagues from across the country.

At Successful Innovations, Inc. we believe that continuous and innovative professional learning created through collaborative partnerships is an integral component to transformational change within school districts all across the country.  Our professional development offerings, including the National Family Engagement Summit, are infused with innovative practices that build capacity and expertise in new skills for educators that will ultimately bring value to teachers and administrators and academic success to students.

To learn more about and register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit visit our website; www.nfesummit.com.  We look forward to meeting you in March and revolutionizing your professional learning and family engagement goals!

101 Practical Tips for Family Engagement

Out of ideas? Tired of the same old plans?  Parent Involvement 101 to the rescue!

One of the biggest challenges facing schools today is the lack of effective family engagement outreach efforts.  Why is this so difficult?  Because today’s family dynamic is constantly changing, this creates many barriers for parents to becoming true partners in their child’s education.  As educators, we must always look for innovative and creative ways to involve and empower parents that will help strengthen and support the bond between the school and family and lay the foundation for student success.  But as educators who has time to continually create effective outreach activities and programs to educate, equip and empower parents and boost and sustain the school’s family engagement goals, your plate is completely full! We understand your plight and we want to help.  We have a great resource with one hundred and one practical tips and ideas for proven and effective strategies to help educators build strong, collaborative partnerships with families.  We know these strategies work because we have implemented them into our own schools when we were teachers and principals.  The strategies are also easily adaptable for your specific school climate and family culture.  So let’s get started, below is tip #41 from Parent Involvement 101. It is a simple as opening the door to new ideas!

It doesn’t matter what time of the year it is, students get sick and are absent from school.  We all know that the more days a student is absent the more at risk the student becomes to academic difficulties.  So to combat student absenteeism due to illness and reach out to families, consider sponsoring a Family Health Night and host it either at the school or at another convenient location, such as the public library.  Invite a speaker for the event; a doctor or nurse from the hospital, a local pediatrician, another health care provider, or even utilize your own school nurse.  Next, determine the specific topic(s) that you want to discuss with your families.  Perhaps you want to share more information about early prevention efforts as they relate to the common cold or flu.  Invite your local pharmacist to accompany the health care provider to discuss the pros and cons of flu vaccinations and over the counter cold remedies.  Also consider discussing with parents the childhood diabetes epidemic and invite a certified nutritionist to share healthy recipes and food options for students at risk.  Another possible idea is to provide free blood pressure screenings for family members, invite a certified trainer to demonstrate age appropriate and safe exercise plans for families.  Also, invite law enforcement officers to demonstrate proper bike safety and proper bike helmet and safety gear equipment.  Make sure that the event is well staffed, that families are given information and take-home materials that will motivate them to continue implementing healthy initiatives.  Be sure to have this information available for families who could not attend the event.  Consider conducting the event through a live video feed on Facebook or other social media outlet, video record the event and post it to the school’s website, and/or make take home bags; “Family Health Night Survival Kits” with the information that was distributed and send them home to families that could not attend.  While tracking your student absenteeism data, consider using these “kits” to take with you on home visits and share them with families.  The possibilities are endless!

Do you want more great tips like the one above?  Check out our publication; “Parent Involvement 101”.  Also, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit on March 21-23, 2018 in Richmond, VA and join educators from all across the country and glean more practical and innovative family engagement ideas!  Don’t miss it!

Bridging the Gap through Home Visits

Adapted from the book: I Hear You Knocking, but You Can’t Come In by Eric Davis

Family engagement is so much more than just getting parents to attend their child’s school program.  Years of research give evidence that when parents are engaged in their child’s learning; they begin to see a difference in their child’s academic progress, improved attendance in school, better behavior and a more positive attitude about school as a whole.  So why is it still a struggle for school districts to engage all families in school programs? Could it be a relationship problem?  Are families feeling welcomed, respected and included in the school’s learning community?

It is important to step back and take a look at our school culture and environment to see if our school is a place that parents and families want to be a part of.  A welcoming environment is the most important step to making families feel that you genuinely care about them.  When you welcome their participation, ideas, and listen to their needs, parents begin to associate more opening and willingly to their child’s principal and teachers.  This relationship grows even deeper when a home visitation program is included in the school culture of building relationships.

Home visitation programs are not a new idea, as it has been used by Head Start Programs for years as a requirement for student enrollment and family engagement.  But research is finding that home visitation programs can bridge the gap between the home and school and have lasting impacts on student achievement.  Home visits give teachers a way to learn more about their students and get parents more involved in their child’s education.  More importantly, the relationship building has a strong impact on families feeling that their child’s teacher really cares about them outside of school.  This impact leads to positive results for more engaged families.

Here are a few tips when starting a new home visitation program that may help to smooth the transition for teachers and parents:

1.       The home visit should last between 20 and 40 minutes.  Plan ahead of time with the family to schedule the visit when if best suits them.

2.      Bring something to leave with the family that will support their student’s success.  (some schools have made gift bags with school supplies to help with homework projects)

3.      When you enter the home, don’t look nervous or uncomfortable.  Your actions during the first five minutes will make or break the visit.  Start the visit by finding something positive to say about the home.

4.      State the purpose of the visit ensuring the parent that you are here to build a relationship with the family and support the success of their child.

5.      Ask the parent if they have any questions about the school or what their child is learning.

6.      Close the visit by letting the parent know that he/she can contact you if there are issues or concerns relating to their child.  Give contact information on a printed card or paper with suggested time to best reach you.

7.      Thank the parent for opening their home to you and let them know you are looking forward to partnering with them to support their child’s success.

8.      After the visit, send a handwritten thank you note to the parent via US mail.  This further demonstrates your commitment to the partnership and completes the process.

By including the home visits’ program in your school, teachers are getting to know their students and families more closely.  This enables the parents to become powerful advocates in their child’s education.  The positive results will show an increased connection with students and families through a collaborative partnership among educators.  This also leads to an increased trust and communication with families and their children will gain confidence and academic success.

13 Tactics for Reducing Stress as a Parent Coordinator

Adapted from the publication; The Parent Coordinator’s Manual

Congratulations!  You are a parent coordinator, one of the most important careers in education.  In your role as parent coordinator you will wear many different hats; “social worker”, “administrator”, “liaison”, “cheerleader”, “friend”, “counselor”, “ambassador”, “presenter”, “salesperson”, “problem prevention expert”, “event planner”, “advocate”, “mediator”, “customer service representative” and “scholar”.  You are an integral and vital part of your school and community; you have the power within your position to bridge gaps and build cohesive, long lasting family and school partnerships.  The most important “hat” you will wear as parent coordinator is that of being a leader.  You are in a leadership role and with this role comes much responsibility.  But even the best leaders can become overwhelmed and suffer from stress on the job.

Numerous studies show that job stress is far and away the major source of stress for American adults and that it has escalated progressively over the past few decades.

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports the following:

  • 40% of workers reported their job was very or extremely stressful
  • 25% view their job as the number one stressor in their lives
  • Job stress is more strongly associated with health complaints than financial or family problems

So what does stress look like for the parent coordinator?  Listed below are nine irreversible and damaging triggers or actions that are a result of stress and pressure experienced by even the best of parent coordinators.  Please try to avoid the following:

1.       Being defensive – accept your roles and responsibilities willingly and with a positive attitude

2.       Blaming others – be genuine and quick to admit your mistakes, ask for help and forgiveness and make the situation right

3.       Going for the quick fix – success takes time, talent, persistence, hard work and dedication, after all – “Rome wasn’t built in a day!”

4.       Demanding uncritical allegiance – allow all stakeholders to have a voice and an opinion, embrace diversity and cultural differences

5.       Ignoring suggestions for improvement – quality improvement is something you practice with others, there is always room for improvement and growth

6.       Insisting everything be an immediate priority – make a to do list, prioritize the list, and work efficiently and effectively towards completing each task, usually poor planning constitutes a crisis and an urgency for everything to become a priority…plan wisely

7.       Keeping your vision a secret – your mission and vision for a superior family engagement program should be well communicated with all stakeholders

8.       Becoming incapable of delegating responsibility- remember you are only one person and you need help, rely on the talents of others to assist with your roles and responsibilities

9.       Being rude, abrupt, and insulting – you are a good will ambassador and the customer service representative for your school and/or district, there is no room for negativity, bad manners and uncivilized behavior

As the parent coordinator, you will need to learn to recognize these harmful triggers and actions and attempt to reduce stress from your daily work environment.  This job is not for the faint hearted!  Below are five tips for dealing with stressful situations as the parent coordinator.

Recognize when you’re becoming stressed.  Your body will let you know if you’re stressed on the job.  Are your muscles or your stomach tight and/or sore?  Are your hands clenched?  Is your breath shallow?  Are you “forgetting” to breathe?  These are all signs that you might be stressed. 

Take a moment to calm down before making any final decisions.

  • Bring your senses to the rescue and quickly manage stress by taking a few deep breaths, clenching and relaxing muscles, turning on some calming music, getting a cup of coffee, or recalling a soothing, sensory-rich image, for example, the beach or your favorite vacation spot.  The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses; sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
  • Look for humor in the situation.  When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress.  When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or amusing story.  Be sensitive to cultural differences and never use crude or derogatory humor, be professional!
  • Be willing to compromise.  Sometimes, if you can bend a little, you’ll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned.
  • The ability to manage your stress level while performing all of your duties and responsibility as the parent coordinator is critical to your effectiveness, personal health and overall attitude toward ensuring a successful family engagement program at your school or district.  Find your inner strength, rely on close colleagues, friends and family for support and maintain a healthy lifestyle to manage your stress and perfect your craft.  Your passion for engaging, equipping and empowering parents should always be your focus, never stress!

Need to relieve stress?  Register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit!  Thursday, March 22, 2018 we will host the extremely funny and delightful comedian; Gail Burns! Join us for a night of laughs and stress relief!  For more information visit our official Summit website at www.nfesummit.com

The Effects of Poverty on Children’s Ability to be Independent Thinkers

Adapted from the book: Family Engagement and Nurturing Children to be Independent Thinkers: an essential handbook for school administrators and teaching professionals

Research demonstrates that family engagement is a dynamic, interactive process that provides a pathway to student success.  Family engagement is a shared responsibility among families, community organizations and schools.  Families are core in the learning process of children and it takes commitment to actions of families and schools working together to support student success.  It is through this shared responsibility that schools reach out to engage families in meaningful ways to actively support their child’s learning and development.  Even though students may come from poverty, they can still be led in the right direction to becoming independent thinkers.

            Here are some ideas to encourage parents from poverty to become engaged in their child’s learning:

  • When planning programs at school for parents to attend, use the “museum format” rather than large group settings.  This encourages families to come out to the school and allows them to come and go to match their busy schedules.  This format has a welcoming atmosphere that is nonthreatening and gives families the freedom to move around to areas that interest them.
  • Use videos that are less than fifteen minutes in length to inform parents about important and helpful information they can use when helping their child at home.
  • Print materials should include pictures, graphics or drawings to help with understanding the message.   This will be less intimidating to parents who have difficulty reading.  Keep the information short, simple and to the point.  Avoid lengthy, text-based informational school flyers and papers because parents have limited time to read and might think the information is not related to their child.
  • Offer coffee as a welcoming gesture to reach families from home of poverty; coffee is frequently perceived as a sign of welcome.
  • Think about the needs of the whole family and allow children to come with their parents.  School children can help their parents to navigate the school building and help them to feel more comfortable.

It is important to take into consideration the various reasons for the lack of parental involvement and to be sensitive to the different needs that children have in their homes that are out of our control as educators.  Being knowledgeable of the research on children in poverty can make an impact on educational decisions that will affect student success and future goals.

For more innovative outreach ideas, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit.  www.nfesummit.com

Celebrating Family Engagement Month

The month of November provides a wonderful opportunity for schools and districts around the nation to recognize and honor the significant role of families who collaborate as equal partners in their child’s education. 

fam engagement month logo.jpg

Family Engagement Month is a time to celebrate the accomplishments of successful family and school partnerships.  It is also a time to set ambitious goals to outreach effectively to more diverse families.  Data from the Census Bureau indicates that one out of five students speak a language other than English at home.  The changing demographics that we see in our schools emphasize the critical need for strong family and school partnerships.   Family Engagement Month provides schools, districts, and states the opportunity to share best practices to support effective family engagement and strategic outreach. 

In many states, the Governor will sign a proclamation in honor of Family Engagement Month to recognize the importance of these essential partnerships.  In addition to these proclamations, some states have created a variety of resources to assist schools and districts with activities to highlight and recognize families this month.  The Florida Department of Education - Office of Family Engagement has some of the best resources in the nation to celebrate Family Engagement Month.   These resources consist of a family engagement toolkit, a pledge for parents in different languages, flyers, logos, social media post templates, and a family engagement video contest. (Click here to view these resources)  These outstanding resources are extremely beneficial for schools around the nation seeking innovative ideas and activities to celebrate Family Engagement Month. 

If you are interested in learning about more creative ideas and strategies to support collaborative family and school partnerships, be sure to attend the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit (www.nfesummit.com) and learn revolutionary ideas from Florida’s fourth largest school district, Orange County Public Schools @OCPSnews.

The Right Answer to WHO and WHAT Could Mean Family Engagement Success

Adapted from Building a High Achieving School 3 C’s to Success

Tis the season for planning special events and spreading good will and holiday cheer!  When preparing for that holiday event you probably take into consideration two very important components to a successful gathering; who and what.  The same is true when planning special events at school.  Meaningful and impactful school events can have powerful and lasting effects when the entire school and community are brought together for a common purpose. 

Events can be social or non-academic, informative and academic, or appreciative, but consider making all events educational, engaging and empowering for all stakeholders.  Plan special events consistently throughout the year that stakeholders look forward to attending.  By constantly evaluating the level of interest, participation and success of each event, you will be ensuring the relevancy and impact that each special event has on stakeholders.  Do not get caught in the trap of “doing the same thing, year after year, and expecting greater results.”  Administrators and teachers sometimes get stuck in a rut doing the same special events at their schools, year after year, because that is what always has been done without really making the event “special” at all. Keeping with tradition is fine as long as stakeholders are receiving beneficial information and/or services and teachers feel supported and valued and students succeed.  If stakeholders are disengaged with the events, then it is time for a necessary change! 

Special events can be time consuming to plan and execute, but worth it when school-family-community partnerships are built, boosted and maintained as a result.  Finally, when planning the special event, keep in mind “who” needs to be engaged in the event and “what” is the purpose of the event.  Below is a list of possible suggestions for who to invite to special events at your school and what type of special events to implement during the school year to ensure maximum engagement.


So who needs to be invited to different events?  Consider the following individuals when hosting any school event:

  • Parent and/or primary care giver
  • Grandparent
  • Aunts, uncles, cousins, and extended family members
  • Siblings
  • Foster parent
  • School Board members
  • Political leaders; town mayor, city council members, delegates, senators, governor
  • Community leaders; chamber of commerce president, CEOs, church council members, fire/police department chief, department of transportation official, college president, civic organizations’ board members, non-profit groups, television personalities, athletes, authors
  • Private citizens; those in the school’s neighborhood, philanthropists, doctors, retired professionals, volunteers
  • Business owners and partners


Aligning the appropriate groups of stakeholders to the special events is the key to creating partners in education to help all students succeed. Consider the following list of events:

  • Non-Academic Events
  • Academic Events
  • Application Events
  • Carnival
  • Back to School Night
  • Multi-Cultural Awareness Dinner
  • Holiday Festival
  • Academic Fair
  • Volunteer Luncheon
  • Talent Show
  • Parent University
  • Military Family Recognition
  • Book Fair
  • Technology Night
  • Awards Assemblies
  • Sporting Event
  • Career Fair
  • Teacher Appreciation Week
  • Band Concert
  • Business Symposium
  • Grandparents’ Day
  • School Play
  • Literacy/Math Nights
  • Black History Month
  • Field Day
  • Parent Workshops
  • PTA/PTO Breakfast

These events, when well attended by the matching “who”, can be excellent networking opportunities for all stakeholders involved.  Be sure to recognize and honor those special guests in attendance and thank them for their continued support and efforts in helping your school achieve its goals.  Special events are a means to creating and building strong family-school-community partnerships which in turn build a better future for all of our students.

For more innovative outreach ideas, register for the 2018 National Family Engagement Summit.  www.nfesummit.com