Dearborn charters champion parent engagement in the digital space

Grace Noyola
Oct 21, 2020 6:05:33 PM

In times like these, the phrase “it takes a village” has assumed a whole new meaning - especially for schools. Suddenly, parents are leaning on educators to learn complex things like classroom technology, how to administer a standardized test, and more - and educators are leaning on parents to help facilitate learning on top of their regular jobs and lives. To be successful as we navigate this pandemic, the lines of communication between families and educators have to be strong. So what does that look like in practice?

Hamadeh Educational Services (HES) supports four charter schools in the greater Dearborn community. Home to students and families from over two dozen countries, even a traditional school year brings with it numerous challenges as educators work to meet the needs of their school communities. From language access, to cultural support and more, HES schools are built on a foundation of embracing differences and providing a learning environment that is accessible for families and kids of many backgrounds. At the core of that strategy is building strong relationships through excellent parent engagement. 

Back in the 2018-19 school year, HES actually began experimenting with live, virtual parent engagement, in an effort to reach more parents who weren’t able to make in-person school community events or student conferences. They had already planned to continue building on this into last school year - when the pandemic hit, it was the perfect opportunity to expand their virtual family engagement.  

Heading into the pandemic, it was about finding the right platforms and technology to communicate most effectively. We learned quickly that we needed to break down complex information into small bits and pieces - and then format the message specially for each platform. Not every parent uses the same social media, or email, etc. We’ve incorporated a lot of options, including translated phone calls, translated social media broadcasts and more.“

Wissam Charafeddine, HES Academies Family Engagement & Community Liaison 

Beginning last April, they implemented a Family Engagement Broadcast video series, which not only provides school updates and COVID-related information, but also invites guest speakers onto a collaborative virtual call to discuss everything from mental health awareness, to student drug prevention, and more. They have continued the series into this new school year, and since their schools are operating 100% virtually at least until Nov. 3, it’s been a great tool. 

We’re creating a habit of virtual parent engagement with the broadcast video series. It’s a way for us to share news, tell stories about the great things happening in our schools, show student achievement and so much more. Everyone, including our parents, are more open today about learning to accommodate new tools and technologies than they might normally be - we’re utilizing this openness as much as possible during this time to integrate virtual engagement as a resource for our students and families.

Wissam Charafeddine, HES Academies Family Engagement & Community Liaison

HES has been diligently preparing for the possibility of returning to physical classrooms after November 3, implementing UV air filters, mask and temperature checks at entrances, desk shields, intensive cleaning schedules and more. But whether or not they proceed with in-person instruction at that time, the foundation of strong parent engagement they’ve created using digital and social media will inevitably be long lasting. 

Two African American, female students smile under their masks. They are participating in crazy hair day.

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