The Power of the Pivot: Exemplars in Family Engagement from our WVFEC C2 Schools

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Schools across the state, and the country, are facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite this adversity, our West Virginia Family Engagement Center schools are demonstrating the power of the pivot by implementing innovative approaches to family engagement through the 20-21 academic school year. Learn from our four Family Engagement Specialists below as they uplift exemplars in family engagement within our Cohort 2 schools.

Innovating a virtual spin on an "Open House".

Marshall County, WV - Jennifer Wotring, Family Engagement Specialist

November 18 - John Marshall High School held a Virtual Open House for Monarch students and families. Since students have been either blended or remote learning for most of the school year, staff knew it was important to provide a way for families to not only talk with teachers and staff, but also to learn more about the school. Information about the Open House was distributed through various channels including print flyers, social media, and the student run broadcasting services WJMH Media with the hope that all families would be made aware of this opportunity. Teachers and staff used various platforms to schedule meeting times with families, including Microsoft Bookings & Insights. Available meeting times included afternoon and evening times to accommodate various schedules. Platforms such as email, Livegrades and Zoom were offered as meeting “locations” to give families the opportunity to use the platform they found most comfortable.

During the same day, staff participated in a virtual professional development session entitled, “State, Story and Strategy” delivered by Dr. Jim Harris to further support for and engagement of students and families.

Equipping families with the tools necessary to achieve educational goals.

Hampshire County, WV - Pat Homberg, Family Engagement Specialist

The West Virginia School of the Deaf and Blind provided iPads and wireless 4G hotspots to families and staff, enabling remote learning, video conferencing, and classroom collaborations in rural areas where this would not have otherwise been possible. Microsoft Intune is implemented as the Mobile Device Manager, which allows the use of LightSpeed Rocket Filters to help ensure safe network behaviors, while also allowing per-device app and program management. Office 365 is used as the primary communication and remote learning tool.

WVSDB first determined how many families needed assistance communicating remotely. This was done by directly communicating with families and learning of their needs. These families were provided with U.S. cellular “MiFi” hotspots, as we determined that no other carrier offered cellular service where needed. Setup and troubleshooting documentation was created and provided to all families and staff. One-on-one help was provided as needed. Many families are now communicating with teachers daily, and students are active within their remote learning classrooms.

Implementing and expanding Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS).

Wood County, WV - Dr. Meaghan Cochrane, Family Engagement Specialist

Jefferson Elementary Center will implement and expand their Jefferson STAR PBIS Program during the 20-21 with support from WVFEC. The Jefferson STAR PBIS program actively involves families in the education process by providing immediate feedback and communication options regarding students’ positive behavioral interventions and academic enrichment and support. This programming supports academic enrichment and improvement, as well as positive behavioral supports.

Each student’s PBIS badge has an individualized QR code on it and teachers, administration, and staff are able to scan it at various times throughout the school day on any topic area, such as behavior, academics, etc. A report is immediately sent to the families with feedback (this school prefers to focus on positive feedback, but does provide opportunities for improvement if needed). Jefferson Elementary is the only school in the state to have reached Level 2 of the PBIS program, and the WVFEC program will help to support and sustain the PBIS programming in order to continue to support academic achievement and improvement, as well as family engagement throughout the process.

Supporting staff and families with a mental health hotline.

Kanawha County, WV - Denise Workman, Family Engagement Specialist

Mary C. Snow West Side Elementary School, with support from the West Virginia Family Engagement Center, is emphasizing the importance of providing mental health support to staff and families this academic year. They have contracted with Mountain Care Network, a mental and behavioral health agency that provides therapy services to those age 2 and up, to provide phone access to a licensed therapist. Emphasizing the importance of meeting families and staff where they are, the “hotline” will provide care and assistance Monday-Friday from 5:00-7:00pm for 15 weeks.

For more information on the West Virginia Family Engagement Center, visit and contact our Family Engagement Specialists directly.

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