Parent engagement has increased at Henry B. Gonzalez Personalized Learning Academy over the past five years since Reymundo Cervantes became principal, according to a Dallas ISD press release.
Cervantes arrived at Gonzalez in 2017, the same year the elementary school formed a partnership with the Flamboyan Foundation.
The organization is based in Washington, D.C., and Gonzalez Elementary was in the first cohort it established. The Flamboyan Foundation works to improve parent and family engagement for students across the country, according to the press release.
As a result of the partnership, Dallas ISD also created the Dallas ISD Family and Community Engagement department as their family engagement model.
Virginia Green, the department manager, said Gonzalez represents a major factor in engagement.
“Gonzalez exemplifies the five pillars of community engagement: home-to-home visits, listening interviews, intentional professional development, having an active leadership team, and offering families a variety of opportunities to engage,” Green shared in the press release.
Staff members have also helped encourage engagement, according to Cervantes.
“I believe it is because of the work and commitment of our teachers to ensure that students will achieve, knowing that parent involvement is key,” he said. “The staff is going the extra mile to involve the parents in different ways – not only with the district’s mandatory parent conferences, and workshops and events, but much more.”
In the press release, Cervantes explained that parent engagement starts as soon as the school year does.
“We don’t wait until the first parent conference. We start right away in the new school year, making one-on-one phone calls to meet the parents. In the first year of the program, in 2018, the teachers went and visited the homes. That was an eye-opener for many of them, not only because they were received with open arms by families, but also because it helped them to be advocates for the students’ learning. Our reaching out first helped to build that trust,” Cervantes said.
In 2017, parents in the district had around 600 volunteer hours; in the 2019-2020 school year, that number rose to 2,200 hours. According to the district, the COVID-19 pandemic caused a slight drop, with 1,600 hours in the 2020-2021 academic year.
Cervantes added that one of the keys to getting parents involved is gaining their trust.
“The protocol is about getting to know the families – where they come from, what’s their biggest achievement as a family, etc.,” he said. “That helped them to become more comfortable, and it opened up more opportunities for them to volunteer as well.”
The personalized approach at Gonzalez Elementary also includes student-guided home visits and assessments.
“As a personalized learning campus, we try to find new ways for students to express and show their progress,” Cervantes said. “We don’t grade our students just by how well they do on tests – we try to open up different ways for them to show their progress.”
The school’s engagement model also includes personalized support for educators, staff members, and parents.