Best Get Involved Moment #24


I was able to attend every activity that involved the parents at Russell Elementary, one each month. It was fun to be there often enough to get to know the students and see how our son was interacting with his new friends. I was able to go in and help with some presentations to several grades. I love being able to be at school often enough to know who each friend is when our son references them in stories about his day.

– Russell Elementary School

“Training and Keeping your Staff Engaged with the help of Edmodo” by Guest Blogger Nora Vizuete

How can we, as parent involvement practitioners, train school staff to improve family engagement in our schools without adding extra stress to their busy schedules? Family engagement is not easy to build and it requires team effort through ongoing support and activities, which is why I found the use of Edmodo to be beneficial. With this in mind, I have developed a variety of Power Point presentations focused on different issues that affect the family-school community.

Today, having a computer is like having electricity in our home and having a smartphone device is like having running water; and Wi-Fi, well, let’s just say we would rather be without food than without an internet connection. This phenomenon has changed the way we work, eat, sleep and drive. It’s naïve to think that our children’s education and the way that teachers keep up with their workloads have not been affected by this same phenomenon. As educators, we should take advantage of this reality and engage parents, students and teachers to create an ecosystem where communication is the fuel that will take our children to the next level.

Taking all this into consideration, it’s safe to say that we also live in an era of social media; so, why not include “educational” media in the mix. In order to keep up and find balance in what teachers and students do to reach their respective goals, productive use has to be made of applications that will help us stay current. One of these applications is Edmodo.

“Edmodo is a secure, social learning platform for teachers, students, schools and districts. It provides a safe and easy way for your staff to connect and collaborate, share content and access homework, grades and school notices. The goal is to help educators harness the power of social media to customize the classroom for each and every learner”.

Edmodo is really easy to use. First, I create my group with all the staff members I am looking to train – it can be big or small. Once everybody is logged in, I can send them the training material. I send them an email with the topic of the training and the time frame criteria so they can complete the training at their convenience. The staff members in my group are the only ones who can see my training modules. PowerPoint presentations are uploaded, and evaluations are submitted after the training takes place to make sure staff reads and understands all the provided information. They can even leave messages and comments regarding the training they just received.

As educators, we try to find ways to integrate technology into everything we do. We know how busy teachers are with new standards, testing, trainings, evaluations, etc. Therefore, I strive to support them by offering an alternative to the traditional face-to-face training through the use of Edmodo to accomplish my staff trainings. Teachers can complete the trainings whenever they have the time. Edmodo, being a website like Facebook but more education oriented, also allows teachers, parents and staff to connect safely and productively.

The most appealing feature of Edmodo is that everything can be done on-line and whenever the target audience can find the extra time, plus you can modify and update the content as needed.   Edmodo is an application that not only allows us to better our children’s education, but most importantly, it allows teachers and staff the opportunity to gain new skills and learn new strategies to improve family engagement at their convenience and their schedule.

Check out a few screenshots taken from Edmodo below!


edmodo1 edmodo2


Nora Vizuete, Parent Involvement Facilitator

Clark Creek Elementary STEM Academy, Cherokee County

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Georgia Department of Education.



The 2015 Georgia Parent Leadership Award Winners Announced!

The Georgia Department of Education (GaDOE) and the Georgia Parent Teacher Association (GA PTA) are recognizing six parents from across the state with the 2015 Georgia Parent Leadership Award.

The award was created by GaDOE and GA PTA to recognize parents for their outstanding leadership in creating a foundation of support for student achievement and success. Research shows that parent engagement makes a difference in student achievement – no matter the age of the child.

“From kindergarten to graduation, we know that active family engagement does absolutely contribute towards the academic success of individual students as well as the entire school,” said State School Superintendent Richard Woods. “This is why I applaud these parents for their continuous involvement in their child’s education and their contributions to their entire school community.”

Rita Erves, Georgia PTA President, added, “It is an undisputed fact that academic achievement increases for children who are the product of parents engaged in their lives,” said. “I applaud the efforts of the 2015 Georgia Parent Leadership Award recipients. These parents recognize that there is absolutely nothing that can replace the meaningful interaction with their children.”

The parents will receive the honor during a ceremony on Tuesday, March 3, 2015 during the 2015 Georgia PTA Day at the Capitol event.

The winners are:

•           Crystal Eplin, W.C. Britt Elementary School, Gwinnett County Schools

•           Melinda Gittleman, Marietta Center for Advanced Academics, Marietta City Schools

•           Antwan McKee, Beecher Hills Elementary School, Atlanta Public Schools

•           Lori Rowe, G.O. Bailey Primary Schools, Tift County Schools

•           Towana Walker-Miller, Mamie Lou Gross Elementary School, Camden County Schools

•           Tyesha Whitley, Shuman Elementary School, Savannah Chatham County Schools

Parent leaders are nominated each November during Georgia’s Parent Engagement Month by public school personnel. Any caregiver who assumes the responsibility for nurturing and caring for a student’s entire well-being consisting of educational, emotional, spiritual, and physical health is eligible for the honor.

The Georgia Parent Leadership Awards are given each year to six parents representing both Title I schools and Non-Title I schools. While the six state winners for 2015 are from elementary schools, parents from all school levels can be nominated.

Winners of the Georgia Parent Leadership Award have opportunities throughout the year to share their story by promoting and assisting parent engagement activities at the state level.

More Information

Please see the following link for more information about the Georgia Parent Leadership Awards:​

February PIC Spotlight: Jessica Ruiz

woodstock elementary school Jessica Ruiz

Parent Involvement Coordinator

Woodstock Elementary School, Cherokee County

Actively engaging parents and families can prove to be a challenge when you are faced with a very culturally diverse school population. With families hailing from over 25 different countries, even the bilingual Parent Involvement Coordinator at Woodstock Elementary, Jessica Ruiz, was finding it difficult to create activities and events that would engage all 100 families. Seeking to embed authentic, hands-on education with parent involvement, Jessica conceived, organized and hosted Woodstock’s inaugural International Festival. The International Festival encouraged family and community engagement by celebrating and embracing the school’s unique and diverse culture.

This event not only allowed families to share their delicious native foods, but it also gave them a chance to exchange facts, stories and artifacts about their cultures. This event naturally brought many different families together, and to ensure it would truly be an educational event, Jessica knew it would be the perfect opportunity to allow families to teach each other about their country and culture. By creating rubrics for the parents to follow, Jessica empowered and engaged the parents by allowing them to create display boards featuring information and anecdotes about their country.

Attendees were entertained by performances that highlighted the different cultures such as a Costa Rican dance, Power Tapp cloggers from Ireland, and a Kung Fu demonstration from China. Each guest also received a ‘passport’ which was stamped as they visited and learned about a new country, plus a panel of judges awarded prizes to the ‘country’ with the best display board. Parents and students alike had a wonderful time sharing their culture as well as learning about other countries. The event attracted a wide variety of families and promoted pride in their diversity. With nonstop learning and enjoyment, the inaugural International Festival was such a hit that Woodstock’s parents, students and staff are now eagerly awaiting next year’s festivities.

By thinking outside of the box, Jessica Ruiz was able to reach out to the diverse population in a Title I school, and engage many hard to reach families. Thanks to the success of the International Festival, parents and families have become more involved in Woodstock Elementary, which in turn promotes student success!

“Teachers that make a difference” – by Guest Blogger Wendy Underwood

Mrs. McCallar

I would like to thank an awesome teacher named Mrs. Melissa McCallar who I first met when my kids were in Pre-K. This is my story how she made an impact in my son’s life.

One day, I was desperately trying to find a book that interested my middle son. After spending hours at the public library and the Joseph Martin Elementary School library, I couldn’t find anything that held his attention. Just as we were about to leave, in walks Mrs. McCallar and asks why my son Patrick wasn’t checking out any books like his sister, Eboni, who had an arm full of books.

Of course my son, being the wiz kid that he is, responded by saying, “I’m not a big reader like my brother and sister. I’m more into numbers and math.”

To which Mrs. McCallar, being the fabulous teacher she is, replied, “Why not do both?”

I smiled and explained how I had been searching for books that might interest him but was having some difficulty because I was not a very big reader myself. Sensing that I was in need of some help, she paused for a moment and suggested that I introduce him to the children’s book series Junie B. Jones.

We tried it, and my son – the one who hated reading, especially books with more than fifty pages – now reads books with 200 or more pages and was recognized this past summer for reading the most books in all of Liberty County!

As a parent, I couldn’t be more grateful for teachers like Mrs. McCallar. She could have easily gone on her way that day and not offered to help. But she chose to stop, ask questions, and get involved. Because she took a moment out of her day to assist a distressed parent, she helped ignite my son’s love of reading – to which I am forever grateful.

Mrs. McCallar is now helping parents and students at the high school level and her new school, Bradwell Institute, recently won first place at the state level in the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl.

I wanted to share my story to let educators know that they can and do make a difference. I would like to thank Mrs. McCallar and all the other educators who choose to get involved and make a difference in the lives of students and their parents every day!

-Wendy Underwood, State School Superintendent Parent Advisory Council Member

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Georgia Department of Education.

“Let’s make community engagement in schools easy and a priority” by Guest Blogger Carol F. Lewis

Community BlogGet our Middle School Matters Transition Booklet here.

These days it seems like just about everyone has an opinion regarding community engagement in schools and so do I. As a parent and an individual whose career has been devoted to helping youth, I know that in order to improve our education system, we have to provide opportunities for the community to give back and support local school improvement efforts. We must look for ways to partner with school districts and redirect resources where they are most needed.

How do we redirect resources and get communities involved?

Everyone can play a role.  Let’s start with what Congress is doing and then think about how individuals at the local level can help. Congress is currently working on reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) of 1965, which is also known as No Child Left Behind after the 2002 reauthorization. With the new reauthorization, it is thought that the ESEA may ultimately define for local educators and states greater discretion and flexibility in the use of the federal funds coming to school districts. Communities In Schools already supports flexibility at the local level, and we hope more schools will consider innovative, research-based ways to include integrated student support services to ensure school success. Integrated student support services (through both intervention and prevention efforts) can be anything from case management to parent outreach and connecting students to existing community resources such as mentors, tutors, health and/or food services.

Integrated support services bridge the community involvement gap, particularly at low performing schools. Many schools have community-school coordinators who act as liaisons between service providers and schools, and they administer integrated support services efficiently and effectively. Often times they are also part of a team that develops plans for increased community engagement. Their services provide additional support to school administrators, counselors and teachers, and open the door for businesses and community volunteers to be involved. Because Communities In Schools is one organization that provides integrated student support services through a research-based model, we know the aforementioned services improve family and community engagement with schools when they are implemented with high fidelity and tailored to individual student and family needs.

Part of our job as education professionals, administrators, child advocates, community leaders and business owners is to help everyone understand why their involvement is crucial to the success of our students. Without strong community infrastructure, the very life-changing services that can and should be delivered to struggling students may not reach the intended recipients. We must work tirelessly to connect those with resources to those with needs.

Recently, there was an excellent demonstration of community and business leaders in Atlanta coming together to support student learning when they raised more than $100,000 in short order so Atlanta Public School students could view the Oscar-nominated film about the civil rights movement, Selma, at no cost over the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday weekend. Atlanta was one of 25 cities nationwide that raised money in this manner. There was also a free Selma curriculum guide and lessons on a variety of subjects that align with Georgia learning standards, which provided additional opportunities for students to gain more civic knowledge.

It’s these type of creative community partnerships that help us engage students and improve academic achievement.

What benefits will we see if we put more focus on community engagement in schools?

Research shows that family and community engagement strengthens schools and contributes to academic success. By tapping into existing community resources, we can successfully address some of the non-academic barriers students face that affect their ability to learn; thus freeing up teachers to teach and allowing students to focus on learning,

Community involvement leads to improved student academic success, attendance and behavior, decreased school violence and disruptions, and more engaged parents. But it’s going to require an “it takes a village” attitude shift to achieve this.

How do we make it happen?

Let’s start by getting more feedback from parents and businesses on how they would like to be engaged in our public schools, keep our minds open to meet them where they are instead of trying force an agenda, and commit to a sustained, valued dialogue from here on out, not just once or twice.

The time is now for us all to look for ways to show support and help our schools increase graduation rates. The children and schools are waiting for us to take action and Georgia’s economic vitality is at stake.

– Carol F. Lewis, President, Communities In Schools of Georgia

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Georgia Department of Education.