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Fox Chapel Area School District - Fairview Elementary School

Implementation of Fairview Family Night

Parental Engagement


This implementation is a part of the project:







Target group
January 2024
It was a pleasant surprise to the educators that parents prioritized social, emotional and mental health. Finding out that parents shared educator's concern for students' wellbeing gave the team permission to focus on building relationships.

About the implementation

Our team wanted to build relationships between staff and parents and create opportunities for teamwork. Many parents desired stronger connections to the school, but didn’t know how or what was available. We could help by identifying existing opportunities in the school, fostering relationships, and working together to ultimately strengthen our district’s supports for students.

What did you do in practice?

For our fall hack, our team hosted its first ever back-to-school event to bring together families, school and community. Families could mingle with each other and school staff, visit information booths, and enjoy food and activities. The children were entertained with a movie so their parents were free to engage. There were stations to access desired information like volunteer opportunities, community sports and organizations, Social Emotional Learning and family resources. We even had a booth to get clearances, which removed a known barrier for families hoping to be involved as volunteers.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

Our team wanted to reach beyond the parents who are dependably active in school life and establish a greater sense of community and open lines of communication between families, school and the community.


Hundreds of people attended the two-hour fall event. Anecdotal feedback was resoundingly positive and filled with excitement. Parents said it was a great way to kick off the year in a low-key and welcoming environment. We also learned how our parents desire to participate within our school in different ways.

100% of the parents surveyed wanted the Fall Festival to be an annual event.
80% of teachers rated the event a 4 or 5 for building relationships and rapport in our community.
Parents reported a positive dynamic between teachers and parents.
Parents left the event feeling a sense of community.
Teachers noted that the event served as an information hub for families to get needed information.
The event helped set a positive tone for the year.

Learning Journey

Our aspiration: To address need, create opportunities, and foster community partnership
We learned that parents wanted to be more involved as supports in the district and for their children. It is a welcome challenge and it gave us a starting point for our aspiration: We will build opportunities for teamwork between families, educators and administrators to support students’ learning and wellbeing.
Empathy interviews: Learning what we didn't know
The empathy interviews helped reveal obstacles to family and school engagement and also some communication challenges. One parent interviewed a veteran teacher and learned that he was frustrated with the decline of parent engagement over time, but also with communication barriers that existed. Also revealed was this big disconnect: Teachers assumed that parents were mostly focused on academics but learned that parents valued their child’s social, emotional and mental health just as highly.
Key pillar: A parent-school team with a wide-open lens
​​We sought team composition that was diverse. A special education teacher and a classroom teacher each brought expertise and enthusiasm to the team while two highly engaged parents were huge assets. Two other parents came intermittently. We aimed to include people outside of the "always dependable PTO moms”. Three fathers joined; it was important to get their perspectives. Establishing and maintaining open lines of communication with our very busy parents was an ongoing and worthwhile effort
Learning from experience: The mini hack supported our fall trial
We found it helpful to use what we learned from the mini-hack to design our fall hack. In part, the survey we had sent to third grade families asked three targeted questions about parent engagement: What to start? What to stop? What to continue? Hearing from families directly was valuable and eventually led to the new fall event that brought information and opportunity to the attention of all parents.
Feedback: The joy of building community
A parent best captured our team’s aspiration: “This event facilitated connections and promoted a sense of belonging and unity, which are vital aspects of a thriving educational community.” We hadn’t known what to expect, whether parents would think the back-to-school event was worth the time alongside many other activities and draws on their time. Yet, hundreds of people came out for our two-hour event, suggesting that families saw value in this low-barrier way to have fun and connect.


The Fox Chapel Area School District is a nationally recognized, award-winning school district located in a suburban community about 10 miles northeast of Pittsburgh. The district comprises six municipalities and serves an area of about 36 square miles with approximately 30,000 residents. The population represents a wide range of social, economic, cultural, and religious backgrounds. Fairview Elementary School, the organization that worked with Parents as Allies, is one of four district elementary buildings and serves approximately 375 students in grades K-5.

Fairview Elementary School
Fox Chapel Area School District