This year marks the second community walk hosted by Landrum Middle School. What's different? Participation by feeder schools Edgewood Elementary, Lion Lane School and Cedar Brook, Ridgecrest and Housman Elementary.
Ridgecrest's Principal Michelle Garcia, impressed by Landrum's first community walk, approached campus leaders about joining the activity.
For Garcia, a community walk was a powerful way to engage families early on in the educational experience. She knows it's critical to understand both students and their supporting family circumstances. Life happens outside of school, and it impacts learning. Connecting school and home helps students and research shows they do better in school and life after graduation.
"I am so thankful," said Garcia about her staff's participation. "They are taking the time to come out and really engage and connect with our families. I am so proud of them."
Engaged parents attend school events and activities but go beyond casual connections and look toward teachers as advisors when it comes to supporting student academics. Along with pride is anticipation as the convoy of schools took to the street to meet and greet area families. Each step was a step in breaking down barriers and opening doors.
From friendly waves and smiles to high fives, educators extended invitations to families to attend upcoming school events. They also had an opportunity to see what was for dinner and how the school year was progressing for students.
Samuel Karns, a Landrum Assistant Principal and the driving force behind the walk, sees results in terms of potential for authentic engagement. Involvement is the first step. That involvement starts with connections.
"If families get familiar with our faces in the community, we'll have developed a culture and climate where parents feel connected to the school," said Karns.
That connection is critical to achieving engagement – something that's more than merely inviting parents into the school for a night or two during the school year. For Karns, it's about actively including them in a sustained, and collaborative experience focused on outcomes for kids.
The mindset is one shared by many experts, SBISD's Community Relations Division, and the division's Family E3 Team. Connecting outside school is a way to expand the learning community and to connect and build relationships with parents.
"We must shift our mindset from family involvement to family engagement to empower our families to work alongside educators," said Leticia Verdinez.
Verdinez, along with her colleague Betsabeth Ortuno, are helping to guide the district's Family E3 Framework. Family E3 focuses on supporting quality engagement between schools and families.
"Our work must link families to learning if we are going to be successful," said Verdinez. Verdinez and her team are gearing up to do just that at SBISD's Parent U series being held Saturday, Sept. 28. The series includes a range of learning opportunities and runs through the academic school year. This kind of support is precisely what experts contend helps greatly determine student success.
Landrum provides similar opportunities for parents in the form of seminars, learning sessions, and a range of support services all designed to hone parents' ability to support student learning. Bottom line? Students with families who are actively engaged in learning are more successful than those without parental engagement.
Engagement demands a high level of trust between students, parent, educator, and schools. That trust is what Landrum's walk hopes to build, face-to-face.
"This is a beginning of relationships," said Garcia. "They just continue to get stronger and stronger."
As the walk comes to an end, and the convoy of educators turns to head to campus, a few students wave goodbye in the crowd. When asked what was most significant about the experience, their answer was simple – that the teachers cared enough to go out into the community. It was a confirmation that teachers and the school see the community as important.
Take a look inside Landrum's Community Walk here.