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Franklin Regional School District

Implementation of Relationship Building Through Shared Fun

Parental Engagement







Target group
January 2024
We were not hearing from parents who are new to the district, in particular the English Language Learner families. They were not part of the focus groups we conducted and this was noted as important outreach and a gap we needed to fill.

About the implementation

We wanted to be deep listeners to our parents. It felt like our communication was one way and we didn’t want to be guessing what parents wanted out of engagement. We wanted to know how to build a two-way relationship, and further, wanted our innovation to build a collective feeling of purpose and in the right direction that is meaningful and helpful for the school.

What did you do in practice?

We enlisted The Mentoring Partnership of Pittsburgh to conduct six focus groups. Their work in connecting with students, parents and teachers was more meaningful than what our district had tried to date. A teacher focus group was conducted separate from the parent group. We sent out six different dates, three being virtual, and provided food and babysitting for the kids. The TMP facilitators used human centered design strategies to gather information from the participants and aggregated the data for us.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

As noted by the school co-lead, “Even being asked if they [parents] were interested in joining the focus group had an impact. No one had asked before.” We had challenged ourselves as a team, “How do we capture real concerns in a way that people feel safe sharing. And in ways that they would know we would do something about them.” Our use of a third party sent the message that we really, really want to know what you think. Participants had the opportunity to speak freely.


“It made me feel like we are really going to make long-term progress. We weren’t just going to sit around and talk about it. It felt really hopeful,” said the team parent co-lead." The school co-lead agreed, “It gave me a sense of hope that we could actually accomplish something. It’s not the typical work we’re asked to do as a school district.”

Students wanted to be a part of the process.
Parents were grateful and appreciative of being asked to join in.
Teachers were interested in having parents in their classrooms and in more parent involvement.
Parents and students wanted to be engaged more (we’re all figuring out how).
We received helpful data from our TMP facilitators that will help us move forward.
We heard students use their home language, which they rarely do at school.

Learning Journey

Empathy Interviews
The co-leads reached out to different parents with children in the elementary building who would be interested in the family-school engagement work. Our team conducted empathy interviews and decided to send a survey to hear more from parents. We had 110 responses from families of students in grades 3-5 that largely named time as an obstacle to building relationships with the school. There was a lot of positive feedback about the teachers but a need to feel more connected.
Aspirational Statement
During our empathy interviews, our team of parents, teachers and administrators uncovered a shared interest of the school staff and the parents: The desire for more parental involvement. With that in mind, this aspirational statement is guiding our work: "We will build opportunities between families, educators, and administrators, to support student learning and well-being."
Hack: Deep Listening Through Focus Groups
We conducted the focus groups and parent feedback largely echoed what we knew needed to improve: communications, opportunities for parents to interact with the school and (even) a peer parent mentoring group to provide mutual support. Our National Honor Society students also wanted to be involved. In the process, we realized that a group we had not heard from were parents new to the district, in particular our English Language Learner families. This was a connection we needed to make.
We received significant detailed feedback from the focus groups. Emerging from the data were several themes for improved family engagement, including: celebrating and learning about a variety of cultures and experiences, and intentionally connecting parents, teachers, school staff and community groups. Another wise piece of advice also emerged: Have the event focused on one thing and the conversation will come.
Hack #2: Bringing Families Together for Dinner
We brought together the English Language Learner families together for dinner and just listened. It was a relaxed atmosphere at a local restaurant. Ideas bubbled naturally — nothing felt forced. We learned about needs from families that we had not thought about in our planning. For example, a mother shared with us that her son wanted to play baseball but she knew nothing about the sport and where to start. This helped us understand the kinds of practical support we could provide to our families.
Lessons Learned and Next Steps
The empathy we've gained from our hacks is what will drive our success. Our advice: Use something as a model and grow from there - and provide multiple opportunities (one size does not fit all). Going forward, we want to listen more to the voices of our older students to help us celebrate different cultures and backgrounds. We want to work on expanding family engagement by engaging students, parents and teachers together.


Franklin Regional School District is a midsized, suburban public school district located in Murrysville, Pennsylvania. We serve Murrysville and the neighboring communities of Delmont and Export. The District encompasses approximately 38 square miles.

Franklin Regional School District