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UBUNTU – I am because we are..
It was six years ago today, April 22nd that I assumed the role of Assistant Superintendent in the Office of Family and Student Engagement. This has been a journey of collective efforts. Our team has evolved over time but has never wavered in our passion and persistence for partnerships to support student learning and school improvement.
We approached the adaptive challenge of family engagement as a capacity building proposition focusing on building the capacity of families, students and school staff to engage in effective strategies that focus on student learning. We employed multiple strategies, implemented simultaneously, to begin to shift the engagement practice in schools and in the district.
We are so very proud of the work that has been accomplished through the Office of Family and Student Engagement. Our student voice work has supported the efforts of Boston Student Advisory Council (BSAC) in their efforts to secure student input in teacher evaluation and a more just Code of Conduct. Our Parent University is a national model, for building the capacity of families to partner for student success. Our capacity building work was one of the major influences for the US Dept. of Education's new Dual Capacity-Building Framework Family – School Partnerships . Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited Boston in 2012 to see the capacity-building work in action; the BPS cross-departmental collaborations, the teacher tools and professional development, the school-based engagement strategies focused on student learning and the supports provided to ensure effective implementation.
While the successes have elevated the engagement work in BPS, the challenges remain. Even though we have many schools that serve as exemplars of effective engagement practice, the majority of our schools continue to struggle with implementation. The new MA educator evaluation rubric includes clearly defined expectations for engagement practice and our team has aligned supports and resources to assist educators in developing proficient/exemplary practice. Our greatest challenge has been time and access to educators and school leaders to provide the critical supports.
Perhaps the most bittersweet development in this six year tenure is the phasing out of the Family and Community Outreach Coordinator Initiative. I began my career in education as a family coordinator and am keenly aware of the critical nature or the role for bridging the gap between home and school. The individuals who serve as FCOCs today, as well as their colleagues who have served over the last decade, have performed amazing work, often under challenging circumstances. The lessons we have learned from the FCOC Initiative have profoundly informed and influenced our approach to engagement as a capacity-building proposition. We have been able to clearly identify the 'conditions for engagement' that must exist to foster effective school and district-wide practice. Their work has confirmed capacity building as the focus for our work and that to be successful, everyone must assume responsibility for the engagement of families and students as part of their role. One of the most important things that we learned was "Leadership Matters" – this is not a surprise, as all of the research points to strong leadership as a necessary factor in school improvement.
As we move forward with establishing the new BPS Office of Engagement, bringing together Welcome Services, the Office of Community Engagement and Circle of Promise and the Office of Family and Student Engagement, we do so anticipating the great opportunities that lie ahead. Each of these offices brings a track record of successful engagement practice that provides a strong foundation for the work of the new office. We have embraced our collective work and have begun to envision the potential for supporting the implementation of effective engagement practice 'from pre-entry to post-graduation" – look for more information regarding the Office of Engagement in the coming months.
All in all, the last six years has been a blessing. To be given the opportunity to work with a team of passionate, talented and dedicated individuals has enriched my life both professionally and personally. Our team is committed to our families, students, schools, community and each other as we move together into the Office of Engagement.
The Work Continues..