Friday, June 22, 2018

5 Steps to Engage Families in Developing Our School Improvement Plan Goals

It is always my intention to lead with honesty, integrity, and full transparency.

As a learning environment, we felt compelled to share our data and create a parent and community deep data dive. We focused on the following 5 Steps to Engage Our Families In Developing Our School Improvement Plan Goals. 

Step 1. Invite the Families Into the Process

It sounds so simple, but so many of our parents shared that this is the first time they have ever been invited to a school during the planning stages of the upcoming year.  We want our families to be a true partner in the experience at Vero Beach Elementary, so it's vital that they feel valued and a part of decision making. Just by asking them to come to our school through social media and our weekly connect message, we were able to get a cross section of our families to our campus.  We advertised the event as a coffee talk and deep data dive and they showed up!

Step 2.   Determine the Shared Values 

 As a principal, it's important for me to listen to what my families want for their child's education. The skills our parents value were shared at our meeting.  These attributes are so much deeper than something that can simply be measured by a standardized test.  Here are just some of the qualities and skills our families shared that they felt were necessary for their children to be successful in life.  This helped us determine our focus to ensure that we are moving in a direction that matches the values our families desire.

Social Skills
Good work ethic
Design Thinking
Civic Duty
Ability to advocate for themselves
Career driven
Confidence and self-esteem empathy

Step 3.  Share the Data With the Families and the Community. 

Be raw, be real, and be honest.  Sharing the true picture of what is taking place isn't always easy. However, the true reality will help create action and get multiple points of view on what can be improved upon.  We saw that our parents have incredible insight.  We showed them the trends that have been taking place on our campus over the past 5 years, the most recent academic and behavioral data, our projection of our school grade, and a deep look at what should be celebrated out in the community and a look at what should be an opportunity for improvement next year.


As we discussed the importance of math and literacy fluency, our parents became even more empowered.  They WANT to know how to help and they want to hear ways that they can support what is taking place at school.  Our literacy coach, foundational literacy support, and math coach did data shares and break out sessions.  Our families left with resources they can use at home; including apps, games, flash cards, and strategies to increase their child's fluency.

Step 5. Share the Story

If you don't share what is going on at your school, someone else will!  Take time when you invest in your families and community to share that message.  Hopefully by shining light on the collaboration and partnership it will encourage other families to dive in too.

After sharing a message on Twitter, one of our families retweeted it too.  We are so lucky to have parents that are so deeply committed to our school!

What worked?

As a school, we allowed ourselves to be humble and honest about our data.  We knew that we needed to bring in our stakeholders to create action.  We invited every single parent to come to the school to digest the data with us and come up with our school improvement plan goals TOGETHER.

That's when it really hit us, we can't do this alone.  We need our families involved on a much deeper level then we have involved them in the past.  We need them to help  us understand the barriers they are up against and we need them to  understand what it will take on an individual basis to truly turn this school into an environment of innovation.  We need our families.

The result was something I can only describe as magical.  Our parent partners that came listened to us share our data, helped us problem solve and determine goals for next year, and stayed to hear ways they can support math and literacy at home.

Working together, the school improvement plan goals 
will continue to align with our District's Strategic Plan:

1.  Increase student achievement by improving instruction in all areas.
2.  Increase family and community engagement at Vero Beach Elementary

Finally our parents, students, and staff helped us develop some ideas on how to increase parent participation at school. We agreed that this will need to be a joint effort to help our students reach their true potential.  Some of the ideas shared were:

1. Being more intentional about getting the information out about the programs that already exist.
2. Take a bus into the community and deliver books and ice cream to our families to increase literacy.
3. Start a "Rad Dads" task force to bring more men into our school.
4. Send connect messages with information about events that are coming up a week in advance AND the day of the event.
5. Room parents program.  Parent Buddy List with a "text tree."
6. Adult English speaking classes for our parents.
7. Start a parent outreach program.
8. Utilize competition in classes to increase parent participation, classes with overall increases earn prizes.

In the end we are committed, as a tribe, to do whatever it takes for our students at Vero Beach Elementary!

Monday, May 28, 2018

Kindness Revolution at Vero Beach Elementary

We were a part of a national movement here at Vero Beach Elementary this year... focusing on kindness to improve our school!!!!

Think Kindness

It all starts with a challenge from the kindness ninja!!

Our students DOMINATED the challenge, and Brian Williams came through with Brick Breaking!!

Our KIDDOS then took it to the next level. Check out how our VBE second grader, Gary Parris shared his message of kindness.  His speech made it to the top ten in the national conference.  Please check it out here.  If you are viewing this prior to June 4th, please take a moment to vote for him too!

Gary Parris' Kindness Video!

Let's show everyone across the nation that ONE kid can CHANGE the world!

VBE has been chosen as the Think Kindness School for the month of May!!!


Think Kindness School Very Beach ElementaryWe visit so many each month and each school is so incredible inspiring!
This month we are recognizing Vero Beach Elementary, located in Florida, as our school of the month. They achieved 7,183 acts of kindness in just 15 days. WAY TO GO!! We asked their principal, Cynthia Emerson to share with us her experience with participating in the Kindness Challenge.
Q: Why is it important to you and your school to instill kindness in today’s culture?
A: It’s important to instill kindness in today’s culture so that students have the intrinsic motivation to continue it as they move forward in the future.  We feel that shaping our society by creating kind and caring individuals is one way to help improve the entire world.  We truly believe one kind act can lead to a powerful ripple effect!
Q: Why did you bring Think Kindness to Vero Beach Elementary?
A: At VBE we believe your “vibe attracts your tribe.”  Part of our message that we share daily is that we “inspire others.”  However, the barriers are exhausting that are student face.  They deal with deep generational poverty, trauma, and a mind-numbing level of obstacles.  Our goal is to show them how being kind can lead to a breakthrough.

Q: What project or activities do your teachers do to create a more positive school culture?
A: We are a positive behavior support school.  We are daily embracing kindness through our morning meetings, brain breaks, and “wampum” positive acknowledgement.  We have built a strong partnership with the Vero Beach Elks who support our program by running a full school store, only the currency they use is earned through positive behavior following our VBE VIBE.

Think Kindness School Very Beach ElementaryQ: We challenged your school to do the kindness challenge. What types of kind deeds did you see take place in your school?
A: We had a family completely embrace the challenge.  They alone created a “positive message” campaign and created over 800 notes for our entire student body and staff.  One of our 5th grade classes spent the morning being “sneaky ninjas” writing personalized messages on every single window of our school for the staff members.  Students were caught putting sweet messages in backpacks, going out of their way to show appreciation to students and staff, and were quick to help comfort friends that were “down.”

Q: What kind of responses have you received from parents or community?
A: A school board member happened to come by during the assembly.  She was so blown away by the message after conferencing with students that she posted a video of them speaking on twitter and facebook.  We are super excited about the positive attention it has brought to our school.

Q: What suggestions would you have to another school taking part in the campaign to help ensure it is a ‘home run’?
A. Dive in head first!  Be prepared to get the staff fully invested, the more they participate, the more the students do.

Q: Anything else you would like to share?
A. We loved it!

Also…. our founder, Brian Williams promised to break some bricks if they achieved their goal. Well, they broke their goal 🙂

Think Kindness

Diving Deep into Rigorous Project Based Learning

With the data rolling in from our first two pilot programs for Project Based Learning, we are excited to see that it is taking our belief that authentic learning experiences offered to students will help them become collaborative, creative, critical thinkers, with an opportunity to meet the rigor of our state standards.

Here are some of our highlights that will be featured on the CreatED Webinar with Education Week.
Please register here:
CreatED Registration

We are spending time this summer looking into the future to what characteristics, skills, and traits we want our students to have when they leave in high school?
What problems will our students solve in the world?

The reality is, we want all doors to be open for our students to create real change in the world.  Our resilient learners are full of potential and if we don't give them the opportunity to showcase their learning and develop the skills to communicate effectively, we must face the reality that we are not serving our students with fidelity.

Last year we began this journey with two teachers and one administrator taking on the training to create two co-teach classrooms.  This year we sit together with the entire Kindergarten team, two members of first, three members of second, three members of third, a fourth grade educator, two members of 5th grade, both administrators, and a former principal that will be assisting with our PBL launch.  We can't wait to see what this Project Based Learning explosion creates at Vero Beach Elementary.

Guided through three days of training with Charity Moran Parsons, Twitter: I DO SCHOOL an extraordinary facilitator of the PBL101 training through the Buck Institute, we are building the foundation of standards-based, PBL for the upcoming school year.  We are excited to continue sharing our data, #failforward moments, and the successes of our learning journey.h

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Gratitude is EVERYTHING!

Check out our Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week at Vero Beach Elementary.  While we encourage an entire week of spoiling, we firmly believe that EVERY day is a day to celebrate our amazing teachers and staff.

The #vbevibe is in full effect!!!

Check out this link here:   Teacher Appreciation Week 2017-2018

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It's all about the TRIBE!


As we begin to plan ahead for next year, its overwhelmingly apparent that the people matter more than any program.  I have joked with staff that I become a "stalker" when hiring time comes.  I believe in the power of hiring and feel that, as Principal, it's the most important job I have.

We are so excited to introduce and welcome our newest TRIBE MEMBERS to the the world.  We know that when it comes down to teaching, what always matters most is relationships.  We are so thrilled to share our newest staff members who are grounded in love for children and high expectations for learning.

Friday, April 13, 2018


How do you create a transformation across an entire school? 
You commit to becoming a TRIBE of INNOVATION.

We are so lucky that we have a committed staff ready to embrace technology and do whatever it takes to build our school through connections with our families and the community.

This just documents that change taking place at VBE!

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Readers being Leaders!!!!

Our amazing 5th grade students (and some special guests) helped support National Read Aloud Day at Vero Beach Elementary which takes place Feb.1st at schools across the nation.  We are so proud of our 5th grade leaders encouraging our younger students to be readers!

Check out the Flipgrids.

Click the link to see them all. VBE Reads

Feel free to leave a positive comment for the readers to see.

Also, please take a look at our Little Indian Updates to see how we are bridging the gap between our families and our school.  We are #strongertogether