Moreland one of four GA Family-Friendly Schools


Coweta County’s Moreland Elementary School was named a 2014 Family-Friendly Partnership School award-winner on Monday by the Georgia Department of Education. Above, several members of the Moreland Elementary “family” stand outside the schools, including, left to right, Moreland principal Melanie Perry, bus driver Wayne Moore, teaching assistant Alleigh Ray, teacher Jennifer Willingham, custodian Janette Shavers, parent and PTO Co-President Ashley Pirkle and students John and Emily Pirkle, parent Brandi Loeper, Hannah Loeper, teacher Sony Edwards, student Matthew Ginn and parent Dawn Ginn, and Moreland Parent Involvement Coordinator Sunny Veal. 

Coweta County’s Moreland Elementary School is one of four Georgia schools selected as winners of the Georgia Department of Education’s 2014 Family-Friendly Partnership School Award.

“The schools that won this award understand the importance of what welcoming environments bring to student success,” said State School Superintendent Dr. John Barge. “They are models for the entire state when it comes to engaging families and making parents feel welcome from the moment that they walk in the door. I offer my congratulations and thanks to all of the winners and finalists.”

The four Family-Friendly, Award-winning schools will be visited by the state superintendent and will receive a plaque and a welcome mat for their front entrance.

The award is sponsored by the GaDOE, along with the Georgia Foundation for Public Education, Georgia Association of Educators and three Ritz-Carlton hotels in Georgia, including The Ritz-Carlton, Atlanta (Downtown), The Ritz-Carlton, Buckhead, and The Ritz-Carlton Lodge, Reynolds Plantation on Lake Oconee.

The Family-Friendly Partnership School Award is given out annually to a small number of Title I schools that go above and beyond to make families feel welcome and work to engage parents in their children’s education.

This year’s Family-Friendly Partnership School Award winners are:

• Moreland Elementary School, Coweta County

• Cumming Elementary School, Forsyth County

• Golden Isles Elementary School, Glynn County

• Midway Elementary School, Forsyth County

This year’s winners were chosen from a pool of ten finalist schools. The six other finalists include:

• Buford Elementary School in Buford City

• East Broad K-8 School in Chatham County

• G.H. Hopkins Elementary School in Gwinnett County

• Lanier County Elementary School in Lanier County

• Louisville Middle School in Jefferson County

• Matilda Harris Elementary School in Camden County

According to the state Department of Education, the winning schools were selected “because they represent the best in customer service for Georgia families, whether it’s on the phone, in the front office or on the Internet. The schools have welcoming staff members, comfortable waiting areas, clear signage and engaging student work throughout the building.”

“They have easy-to-navigate websites and are forging partnerships with parents to help improve student achievement. The schools also provide unique, engaging and innovative parent engagement programming that is successful in reaching all families in the school.”

Each school received phone calls and visits from “parents” looking for information or assistance. They also received a walk-through by department staff, which conducted interviews with school workers, parents, students and community members as part of the selection process.

Moreland Principal Melanie Perry was thrilled to hear that Moreland was chosen for this year’s award. She said that Moreland Elementary has a strong ethic of service to parents and student, a focus on thorough, two-way communication with parents, and works hard year-round to encourage and build whole-family participation in school life.

“Parents are a daily part of our school's heartbeat,” said Perry. “We rely heavily on parent involvement to foster the academic, social and emotional growth of our students,” including annual training on parental rights and responsibilities, multiple meeting times and informational sessions to accommodate all parents schedules, use of focus groups and parent surveys, volunteerism opportunities in all aspects of school operations, and continuous highlighting of parent involvement.

“Our parent volunteers are a cornerstone of what makes our school feel like such a family,” said Perry.

Communication is a big part of Moreland’s effort, she said. “We use multiple forms of communication to ensure that parents feel informed. As parents drive into the school, they are able to read upcoming events on the school marquee. Once they enter the building, they can easily view the PAW board (Parents Are Wonderful) board filled with upcoming events as well as view PAW prints celebrating each parent volunteer who enters the classroom.”

Teachers send home weekly newsletters to parents informed of academic goals, and communicate daily through student agendas, class websites, a school Facebook page and Twitter account, Remind 101 texting app as well as group and individual emails. Teachers have also received in-service for conferencing skills to develop positive communication with parents.

“When one form of communication is not successful, teachers are willing to make home visits to ensure that parents are informed and understand the important role they play in the process,” said Perry. The school has set a 100 percent goal for January through March 2014 to meet face-to-face with all parents. “We feel that the timing of these meetings will help ensure academic success for the upcoming CRCT testing period.”

The school focuses on involving parents to take active roles in decision making, including review of the school’s Title I Parent/Teacher/Student compact, and review of and input on Moreland’s School Improvement Plan. Parents are encouraged to provide input at monthly school council meetings, and involve themselves in the Moreland Parent Teacher Organization, among other opportunities.

“I think having our school Parent Involvement Coordinator Sunny Veal definitely helped Moreland win this award” said Perry. “She has coordinated so many parent workshops and community events for us this year such as the Daddy Daughter Dance, our Mom & Me Magic Show, Grandparents Day…. She has been that school connection for our PTO, has kept our newsletter current, created a parent resource room and offered so many great things here at Moreland.”

Teams from Moreland and other winning schools also will get the chance to learn more about providing welcoming environments during a professional learning seminar hosted by The Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center. The seminars are designed to help the schools increase parent engagement to help improve the academic achievement of students.

“Through The Ritz-Carlton ‘Succeed Through Service’ program, our hotels partner with schools that serve a disadvantaged community. Our goal is to instill in the students the vision of a successful future if they remain in school,” said Erwin Schinnerl, general manager, The Ritz-Carlton Buckhead. “The general managers of our Ritz-Carlton hotels in downtown Atlanta and at Reynolds Plantation share the hope that the family-friendly schools program will successfully encourage academic achievement of their students.”

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