Metropolitan Nashville Public Schools (MNPS) hosted a Learning Lab convening of the District Leaders Network on Family and Community Engagement (FCE) on November 9-10, 2015.
The Learning Lab is an annual meeting designed to provide District Leaders with the opportunity to explore and learn from the successes and challenges of a specific district in order to refine and improve their respective district strategies. This year’s Learning Lab was attended by 25 people representing 12 districts from across the country. Held in conjunction with a district-wide family engagement summit (IEL board member Karen Mapp delivered the keynote address), District Leaders were oriented to the unique cross-disciplinary staffing structure of MNPS’s Department of Family and Community Partnerships as well as the extensive professional development available to school staff, teachers, and community partners in action.
After the summit, MNPS organized a number of activities for district leaders to examine the impressive organizational structure and initiatives in place to support family and community engagement. School site visits, a panel discussion with the MNPS leadership team, and presentations from community-based organizations delved into the connections between FCE work and their community schools strategy, exploring how the district leverages funds and other resources to provide programs that support student learning and the needs of families. Community partners, central office and school-based leadership, family engagement specialists, and parents representing MNPS emphasized the integration of family engagement at every level – from a specific school to school clusters to the whole district. Through comprehensive coverage of the programs in place to support family and community engagement, district leaders were able to understand the importance of community partnerships for helping vulnerable children and families within Nashville’s context.
MNPS staff benefited greatly from feedback and insights from peers doing similar work around the country and equally committed to improving outcomes for children and families through improving systemic family and community engagement. District leaders valued the opportunity for open and honest conversations about the work in their own districts and returned to their communities reenergized, with new ideas and practical strategies for taking their family and community engagement to the next level.