By: Alicia Sands Lurry
On Tuesday, State Superintendent Richard Woods presented Garden Hills Elementary School with the 2017 Georgia Department of Education Family-Friendly Partnership Award for its exceptional commitment to fostering a welcoming environment that encourages families to become active partners in improving student achievement and success.
During the event, Garden Hills received a special plaque, a welcome mat to display at the school’s front entrance identifying its family-friendly award status, and a special professional learning opportunity provided by The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center.
One of five Title I schools in Georgia to receive the award, Garden Hills was praised for maintaining and updating an older facility; reaching out to Hispanic families to register students for the school year; partnering with neighboring private school, Atlanta International School; and ensuring that disparate communities come together to form one school community through an English-Spanish dual immersion program.
Garden Hills was also recognized for establishing tours and schedules for prospective parents who would otherwise move their children to a private school. The school also partners with Passion City Church, which donates book bags and snack packs for students, and Peachtree Presbyterian Church, which sods the soccer field each summer.
“Garden Hills is committed to building relationships and focusing its efforts on a family- friendly environment and being involved is in the community,” Woods said. “This award represents that commitment to engaging with parents and the community.”
The four factors for assessing a school’s welcoming environment are: physical environment, personal contact, communication, and school practices and policies. As part of the award criteria, each winning school addressed how they are implementing the six National Parent Teacher Association Standards for Family-School Partnerships by creating welcoming environments to increase parent engagement throughout the school.
The Georgia Department of Education 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. Each school honored with the Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership School Award is designated as a Family-Friendly School by the Georgia Department of Education for five years.