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Butler Area Center Township Elementary

Implementation of Fall Festival

Parental Engagement
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This implementation is a part of the project:





Target group
February 2024
A parent observed that, “relationships are built with the parents who are in the school building often. When relationships are built, it allows everyone to be seen as another human being and a teammate in their child’s success.”

About the implementation

The school district is building teams across several of our elementary schools. Our team desired to build relationships between staff and parents and create opportunities for teamwork. We also wanted to know what parents were looking for from the school. Through empathy interviews and our spring mini-hack survey, we learned that our parents really wanted to be more involved, but didn’t know how.

What did you do in practice?

The responses to our survey helped us see that parents wanted to be more involved in our school. To learn more, the big Fall Festival was designed to draw parents to our building. At the event, which included food, games, crafts, entertainment and prizes, parents filled out a survey to share their interests and talents. They told us about themselves, expressed their choices and how they could be more active participants in our school community. The results were helpful to the school and the Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) as a resource for future engagement opportunities.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

We didn't find that using a QR code format was the best way to learn what parents wanted, so the Fall Festival was designed to draw families in to give them a fun night together. Children were safe and within eyeshot, parents could respond to our questions and also have the conversations which helped to more accurately answer queries like, “What are your talents?” We could prompt fuller responses from them rather than having an item left blank or answered, “no talents.” Incentives for completing the survey also encouraged participation.


The outcomes from the evening were so encouraging! Most importantly, our face-to-face effort produced info that we're able to act upon to encourage and sustain future parent engagement.

We received 67 parent responses to the survey question asking about their talents.
Of the 67, 90% expressed willingness to be further involved with school events and activities.
We created a parent involvement database for use by teachers, staff and the school PTO.
Opportunities for parent involvement will now be more tailored to the talents of the parents.
A veteran and a new teacher got to know each other through preparation for the event.

Learning Journey

The aspiration, the North Star that serves as our common motivation
The aspiration that guided our work is a perfect summary of what we want to accomplish: We will build opportunities for teamwork between families, educators and administrators to support students’ learning and wellbeing. It truly is about creating a common vision for our children.
Empathy interviews provide valuable insights
The entire team participated in empathy interviews. An insight for teachers was that parents were as deeply interested in socio-emotional growth for their children as in academics. From a parent it was heard that “Relationships are built with the parents who are in the school building often, such as PTO members. And from a teacher it was learned that she would like to find a way to know more of the kids’ needs so everyone could work together to help the kids more.
What helped our team persevere, especially when challenges arose?
Our parent co-lead was admirably stubborn. She was determined to follow through. The teachers are required to dedicate 6 hours to parent engagement (it was a bonus that students liked interacting with their teachers in a fun way). The event could not have happened without teacher support and our PAA team expressed their gratitude to the district administration. Across the year, we lost all but two parents. That was challenging because more responsibilities fell on them.
Insights: What we learned
We knew that parents wanted to be involved, but we wanted it to be meaningful. What would give them joy and sustain their engagement? We made a list—a directory of information that could be used by others. Questions included: What are your talents? What do you like to do? Do you like to read to children? Do you like party planning? What is your availability? In this way we could tailor or develop opportunities according to parent interest. Now we can pull a team together using the directory!


The Butler Area School District is located north of Pittsburgh and is a very large school district in Butler County, western Pennsylvania. We encompass approximately 144 square miles (370 km2) and cover the City of Buter, the Boroughs of Connoquenessing and East Butler and Butler Township, Center Township, Clearfield Township, Connoquenessing Township, Oakland Township and Summit Township.

United States
Center Township Elementary School