Moving together as a team

Some 150 community members gathered at Ibarra Elementary School recently to find better ways to support student learning.

Some 150 community members gathered at Ibarra Elementary School recently to find better ways to support student learning.

Using “Design Thinking,” an innovative approach to solving complex problems, 150 community members gathered recently at Ibarra Elementary School to create better ways to support student learning by working together.

It was like magic. With parents wearing headsets for interpretation, Crawford Cluster teachers, principals, district staff members, and community partners broke through five language barriers and listened to families’ successes and struggles to support their children’s education.

The “together” aspect of the day highlighted the power of partnership. Families in the Crawford Cluster shared crucial information about their children’s brilliance and hopes for their future, as well as barriers they sometimes face to reaching those dreams.

They didn’t stop there. Teams huddled around cafeteria tables to come up with solutions; families sat elbow-to-elbow with educators and nonprofits representing the support system for all children. The Crawford community is committed to building tighter support systems for learning and life outcomes across children’s lives in school, home and the community. Most attendees planned to join another Crawford Cluster meeting to move forward based on the design proposals.

While this process took place in the Crawford Cluster, the commitment to family engagement is districtwide.

San Diego Unified is strengthening partnerships among families, schools, and community because research shows strong engagement raises grades, graduation rates, attendance and college enrollment. A new cross-functional group, Team Family for Equity, was recently created in the district to build systemic family and community engagement to contribute to stronger student learning, post-secondary readiness, and life outcomes for each and every student.

The team is still growing, but currently includes family members as well as members from Parent Outreach and Engagement; Leadership and Learning; Office of Youth Advocacy; Early Childhood Education; Translation Services; Facilities Planning & Construction; Area Superintendents; Neighborhood Schools & Enrollment; School Police; and Race, Human Relations & Advocacy. In collaboration with Area Superintendent Fabiola Bagula and the Crawford Cluster principals, Team Family for Equity facilitated the Design Thinking Process.

As a district, we have pockets of strong engagement, but our approach is not yet systemic so that each and every family is empowered to support their child’s learning in partnership with schools and community. The work in the Crawford Cluster serves to illuminate pathways and processes that may be useful to other Clusters.

Together, across San Diego, we will shape an approach to family and community engagement that becomes a powerful support for improved student learning and life outcomes.