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Frazier School District

Implementation of Spirit Tailgate

Parental Engagement







Target group
February 2024
Even with the information gathered through empathy interviews and surveys, it was only after implementing our spirit tailgate hack that the team really understood what parents were looking for from their engagement with the school.

About the implementation

The team believes that teachers and parents share a commitment to their children's
learning and wellbeing, although this may not be enough—especially if
miscommunication and misunderstanding have led to mistrust. We wanted to create
opportunities for parents and teachers to better understand one another, build a shared
"team spirit," and work together better for the sake of the children.

What did you do in practice?

First, to gain new perspectives, each team member conducted an empathy interview with someone in a different role: educators interviewed parents and parents interviewed educators. Then our team surveyed families to gather feedback on a bigger scale. We wanted to know what changes the school could implement to improve communication, family involvement and educational experience. It was survey responses that led the team to organize the first ever "Spirit Tailgate" event to bring together parents and teachers. It was held on the same night as the school's Youth Football and Cheer Night.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

Our first-ever Spirit Tailgate was a new way for us to draw families to the school. We hoped it would convey our desire to have fun, learn together, and encourage the growth of relationships. It was a low-barrier approach – neither families nor teachers were under pressure to do anything but enjoy the activities and engage with each other in a comfortable setting. We utilized a time when families would already be coming to campus (youth night at a varsity football home game) to engage all to learn more about our school and current programs.


We had a fantastic turn out at our Spirit Tailgate. Families were talking with
each other and staff. Kids were playing with others and having fun. It was nice to
see people come together in our community. We even won the varsity football
game that night. We sure sent a lot of school spirit to the players!

More than 200 people attended the first ever Spirit Tailgate.
More than 80 people responded to the family feedback survey.

Learning Journey

The aspiration: Grounding our work in a common goal
Miscommunications and misunderstandings were issues that we knew should be and could be addressed. Considering that trust was at stake, the team agreed on this aspiration: We will build trust between families, educators, and administrators.
Gaining new perspectives: Empathy interviews
We interviewed parents and parents interviewed staff. It was interesting to see the different perspectives from others and receive feedback about how we could improve, change and sustain what is going well. In one interview, a teacher shared that she likes to make positive phone calls home and puts more emphasis on the children being good people rather than focusing solely on their test scores. This was an insight for parents who also have high regard for social emotional learning.
Start small: The Mini-Hack
As a first small step, the team surveyed families to ask: What changes could the school implement to improve communication, family involvement, and educational experience? Across the 82 responses, the team gathered important data to inform their design of future engagement hacks. The survey also provided the team with a great new idea to improve parent engagement in the school: Bring everyone together to raise spirits. This grass-roots idea led to our fall hack.
The Fall Hack: The Spirit Tailgate
The Spirit Tailgate was a great way to get people to come together. An additional benefit for parents were informational booths that families could visit at their leisure. There was music, food and a generally festive air that, indeed, raised one's spirits. Meanwhile, we were also supporting our school's football team on an important game night. Through this fun format, there were abundant common points of interest for parents, families and school people to share.
The team: Pulling it all together
Our team worked well together. We had fun at our meetings (which helps sustain the energy) and learned about one another. Our superintendent also joined us for a meeting. Frazier's small community is unique and tightly connected. Although everyone may not always agree on issues, we all agree with a ‘child first’ approach to education, and that's valuable common ground.


The Frazier School District is a rural public school district located in Fayette County, Pennsylvania, about 35 miles south of Pittsburgh. It serves the boroughs of Perryopolis and Newell, and the townships of Perry, Jefferson and Lower Tyrone. Frazier School District encompasses approximately 83 square miles.

Frazier Elementary School