We are using cookies to give a better service experience. By using our services you agree to use cookies. Read more

All articles

Bentworth School District

Implementation of Hot Diggity Dog

Parental Engagement





Target group
January 2024
We wanted to gain rapport and all be here for the same thing — the advancement of our students. Involving a parent team was key, they took the lead and felt accountable.

About the implementation

We want to build trust, a relationship and rapport with the community. How to get parents to engage given barriers like transportation, working and other activities is the challenge. Our goal is to reach the parents who aren’t easily reachable. Those who are uncomfortable reaching out... maybe they had a bad experience themselves in school.

What did you do in practice?

We began by focusing on a high population area where we don't have a lot of parent participation, an apartment complex. The principal took coffee and donuts to engage with families. Next, we improved upon an event that already exists: kindergarten orientation. The superintendent grilled hot dogs, parents met other parents and teachers, and gained lots of information. In the spring we followed with a revamped middle school orientation. Transitioning students, and their parents, participated in a low-key evening of food, walks through classrooms and comfort building in the new setting.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

In our rural community, transportation is one barrier that makes it difficult to engage with parents, so we went to them. Admin is seen as "this cloud above" and coffee and donuts challenged that idea. Kindergarten orientation had been more formal and one-way communication in the past. Similarly, parents had been left out of their child's transition to middle school. We wanted to create opportunities for parents to be able to ask their questions and for teachers to get to know their families.


Get to know your team first .. get to know each other and just talk. Gain rapport and figure out what you want to do. Build trust within the group. We got to know admin, teachers and parents better. And, we were able to reach out to new parents. Bentworth is a small community and you hear things through the grapevine. It's something to build on.

180 parents attended the newly designed kindergarten orientation, compared to 70 last year.
Teachers liked the new set-up for kindergarten orientation and have already built upon it.
Parents felt comfortable sending their kids to kindergarten.
A local business donated a bike for the raffle at the middle school spring event.
The high school wants to be a part of it, they want to do something!
Parents talked about the events, had positive feedback and gained information they could use.

Learning Journey

Brainstorming Ideas & Building Team Trust
We wanted to get out into the community and learn. A team of parents were recruited and they took the lead and felt accountable. Our team began with several surveys to parents. Because we had kindergarten registering, we targeted those parents first through our communication system, Class Dojo. We asked for input and then it kept building. Through this process, our team of parents, administrators and teachers really got to know each other. We had fun, productive conversations and built trust.
Aspiration Statement
As our school team of parents, teachers and administrators worked together, we wanted our aspiration statement to be: "We will create opportunities for engagement in ways that are responsive to diverse language, cultural, socioeconomic and gender backgrounds." We were keen to develop new opportunities for parents, teachers and school staff to meet and engage.
Our Hack: Hot Diggity Dog
Our kindergarten engagement event called "Hot Diggity Dog" was a success! The event invited incoming kindergartners and their families to get to know the school building and meet teachers and school staff in an informal setting. We had hot dogs and refreshments for families which brought people together. The superintendent personally grilled the hot dogs so he could interact with families and engage in comfortable conversation.
Feedback from Our Families
The kindergarten event went great! Many families attended and shared they had fun. After connecting with teachers and school staff, parents and kids felt more comfortable and less worried. Teachers shared that there was much less crying at the start of school! We also learned that parents worried about calling the teacher but realized after the event that the teachers were approachable and cared. One parent with three children in cyber school even re-enrolled them in the district.
Expanding to Middle School Transition
Given the success of Hot Diggity Dog, the 5th grade teachers revamped their approach to middle school transition and volunteered to participate on event night. We hosted a "Walkin' Taco" evening for families to learn more about the middle school. It featured a walk around the school and families enjoyed tacos in the cafeteria while teachers and staff shared info about middle school. The fun vibe of the night was a good step toward alleviating fears about moving to a new school building.
Lessons Learned and Next Steps
We learned to constantly ask, "What can we do to help the school community?" By taking time to build a strong rapport and trust with our school team, we felt we understood better the barriers that existed in our community. We also learned to plan realistically. It's ok to start small and let it grow from there. We are excited that our family-school engagement work will start to expand to the high school. We will keep asking how we can help and want to continue having fun through this journey.


The Bentworth School District is a small, rural public school district located in southwestern Pennsylvania. Our District encompasses approximately 54 square miles and covers the boroughs of Bentleyville, Cokeburg, and Ellsworth as well as North Bethlehem Township and Somerset Township in Washington County.

Bentworth Middle School
Bentworth Elementary School