Shaakira Akbar

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Shaakira Akbar

Red Oak Elementary

Coming into Red Oak Elementary as a new principal, one of the first things I knew I had to do was to reestablish trust, relationship, and connectivity within the community. I interviewed and met with teachers, parents, students, and community members to try to get an idea of what was needed and the best avenues to make the needed connections. The theme I heard was that the community wants to be a part of the school, the parents want to help and know what is going on in the school, the teachers want the support and trust of the parents, and the students want to enjoy the school. In my mind, these are not individualized desires, with the right programming these desires can overlap and marry to create a system that supports all stakeholders.

Immediately I decided to send home weekly communication folders. These folders connect the school and home because parents know that each Wednesday they will receive a folder of information that lets them know what is going on school wide. Parents and teachers know that they may receive information from teachers on other days, but any information that is connecting the home and the school will come home on Wednesday. In addition, I make a point to call all parents back and address all concerns as soon as I can. The longest it will take me is 24 hours. I do not hide from parents. I connect with them anytime I can to build relationships and offer positive customer service, as I understand this becomes the brand of our school. I also encourage (require) teachers to communicate with parents. I purport that the more information you share with parents, the less they desire and interrupt our day in order to find out. Also, I send a weekly parent memo to all parents in the school to share announcements and provide them with upcoming dates and important information that is happening in our school. Parents know they will receive this memo weekly on Sunday.

Another requirement is that all teachers maintain an updated web page, and the media specialist keeps the school web page updated. This ensures that parents and community have the opportunity to receive information about the school at all times. Further it shows the community that we are organized and diligent about the work that we are doing with students.

Upon entering Red Oak elementary, there was no PTO established at this school. I immediately contacted parents, through my Popcorn with the Principal events this summer (opportunities provided for families to come meet the principal and assistant principal). I found that parents were interested, but they did not want to take on the job that running a PTO can be. Therefore, I came up with the idea for each officer to have a co officer, so all of the work does not lie with one person. Parents liked this idea, and began to volunteer. Needless to say, our first PTO meeting is October 17, 2019!

Finally, I have made sure that we have many activities that are sponsored by the school to establish connections, not just with us, so families have the opportunity to connect with each other. On the first day of school, families walked into an actual circus. So many parents were in awe, and told me that they felt so much better about dropping their children off in a place that obviously wants them there, and values them enough to go to such lengths to welcome them. Curriculum Night was a success, especially since parents had a chance to go on a scavenger hunt with their children. The scavenger hunt allowed the parents to get to know the school building, but they also got the chance to spend quality time with their children. Grandparents day was amazing! Families got the chance to attend an organized event, which allowed them to eat, shop, and take a photo with their loved ones. Grandparents and parents were so pleased that they sought me out just to tell me how great things were. We are planning several other events this year to continue our work of connecting with the community.