North Fayette Elem. honored with Family-Friendly award

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It takes a village to raise a child, and North Fayette Elementary puts that to practice in educating all of its students. The school was recently recognized for its efforts with the Georgia Department of Education’s Family-Friendly Partnership Schools Initiative award, one of just six schools in the state honored this year.

GaDOE launched the Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership School Initiative in the summer of 2010 to assist Title I schools, families, and communities in working together to create welcoming environments that lead to increased student achievement. The FFPS initiative highlights the first standard—Welcoming All Families. All Title I school-wide schools are invited to submit an online application to join a two-year professional development opportunity to improve its welcoming environment. The process for North Fayette began in November 2019.

Fayette County’s Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson and State School Superintendent Richard Woods were among the figures on hand to bestow the honor on the Dolphin community.

“Engaging families, especially in today’s world, is so important, and it begins with building relationships. That relationship begins when you drive up and walk through the doors,” said Woods, lauding the buy-in of the whole school community. “Thank you for taking the initiative. This doesn’t happen without good, solid leadership from the top down.”

Mandi Griffin, Family Engagement Specialist with the Georgia Department of Education, agreed. She relayed a story of one of her team members tasked with talking to North Fayette teachers and families, and he was moved to tears by their words.

“You guys weren’t in this to win a prize, you were in this to make connections with your families,” said Griffin.

The recognition is the result of the hard work of North Fayette’s Family-Friendly Partnership Schools Initiative team of Principal Dr. Lisa Moore, Assistant Principal Dr. Monica Reckley, Title I Contact Dr. Claudette Lester, and Title I Liaison Ali Howard.

When Dr. Moore became Principal at North Fayette, she heard the feedback from teachers that they needed to work on the school’s climate and culture to make it a more positive environment. They got to work and they haven’t stopped pushing.

With such a diverse school population, they want to be welcoming to all families. Among the initiatives are increasing communication in multiple languages, adding school signage in English and Spanish, and developing a culturally-aware task team to highlight a wide spectrum of subjects.

“We see the whole world in our building,” said Dr. Moore. “We wanted to ensure that we were connecting with all of our families.”

COVID-19 presented unique challenges that could separate the school community, but they took it as an opportunity to find new ways to work together, like offering virtual after-school tutoring, technology workshops to give parents the tools to help their children, and virtual school events.

Increased communication built a better partnership between the school and parents when students needed support more than ever.

“We said we have to do our part, but we also need you to do your part, and we can’t just say it, we have to work together to build that trust,” said Dr. Moore.

The award is welcome recognition and encouragement to continue working to connect with families and expand it further.

“We’re here and we’re working, and we’re going to keep working,” said Dr. Moore. “We haven’t arrived. We want to make sure we continue to grow.”

North Fayette Elementary truly puts families first, and the award is proof positive, said State Superintendent Woods.

“You’re one of six schools out of a lot (in the state), so you’re the one percent of the one percent.”

North Fayette Elementary received the Georgia Department of Education’s Family-Friendly Partnership Schools Initiative award. On hand for the celebration were (L to R) Fayette County School Superintendent Dr. Jonathan Patterson, Title I Liaison Ali Howard, North Fayette Elementary Principal Dr. Lisa Moore, Title I Contact Dr. Claudette Lester, State School Superintendent Richard Woods, and Fayette County Board of Education member Roy Rabold.