parents as allies

5 Pittsburgh school districts will share their Parents as Allies innovations with the world at the HundrED Summit

Photos by Ben Filio.

Pittsburgh-area parent Soha Hindawy has always been involved in her child’s education. But when she was new to the Avonworth School District, she wasn’t sure quite where she fit or how to really engage with teachers and the school community. 

A Parents as Allies event last year called “Hi, Neighbor!” – where Hindawy and other parents were invited to share their families’ cultural celebrations – changed all that. Today she’s highly engaged, and even works as a staff member at her child’s school. 

Meanwhile in Ambridge, parents who hadn’t previously attended school events got to really connect with teachers and administrators at a Parents as Allies outdoor dance party strategically held during tailgating for the community’s biggest football game of the year. And at Crawford Central, the district used a small Parents as Allies grant to do something wonderfully unexpected: They bought a gas barbecue grill and began bringing it out to neighborhoods throughout their community to serve impromptu hot dog dinners and meet parents exactly where they are.

These are just three among dozens of examples of the deep family-school engagement that has been growing in the Pittsburgh region through the Parents as Allies project. In total, 212 parents and educators from 28 school districts have been working together for nearly two years to hack parent-school engagement.

Next week, five of these 28 school districts will represent the Parents as Allies project in Helsinki at this year’s HundrED Innovation Summit.

Families and teachers from Burrell School District shared cocoa and s’mores, and go to know each other better, during “Fireside Chat” gatherings inspired by Parents as Allies.

During the summit in Helsinki, representatives from these teams will share their experiences and ideas with other education innovators from around the world. They are:

  • Dr. Scott Miller, principal at Avonworth Primary Center
  • Dr. Joseph Peacock, principal at Avalon Elementary in the Northgate school district
  • Dr. Autumn R. Turk, director of curriculum and development at Burrell School District
  • Melissa Wagner, principal at McKee Elementary in West Allegheny School District
  • and Dr. Thomas K. Washington, superintendent of schools at Crawford Central School District

During a panel discussion called “How to Build Trust and Sustainable Family-School Engagement,” hosted by Kidsburgh’s director Yu-Ling Cheng, they will explore the traditional barriers to authentic engagement between families and schools. These challenges are common in most school districts in America: Schools are not historically designed to engage parents, teachers are traditionally not given training in engaging with families and many parents don’t feel comfortable reaching out to teachers and schools. 

For nearly two years, Parents as Allies teams have been using design thinking to dream up affordable and truly effective ways to dismantle these barriers. So Miller, Peacock, Turk, Wagner and Washington will share the particular ways that they’ve been dismantling those barriers in their own districts and help attendees from around the world learn to apply this creative thinking in their communities. 

Click here to watch the awards ceremony and conference sessions from the Summit. And stay tuned for a report from Kidsburgh about what these local educators learn while visiting with education innovators from around the world at this global conference.