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Freeport Area School District

Implementation of Table Talk - FASD Welcoming Dinner

Parental Engagement







Target group
February 2024
Empathy interviews revealed that it’s not always easy for parents, students, and school staff to make connections in the way they'd like, due to various barriers. It’s an even bigger challenge for new families who have no existing connections.

About the implementation

As the Freeport Area School District continues to grow, our team wanted to ensure that even our newest members of our school community felt engaged, supported, and included. Our empathy interviews helped shed light on some strengths and weaknesses concerning the connections felt between parents, teachers, and school administrators. This information inspired a new student ambassador’s program.

What did you do in practice?

Our spring mini hack, the Student Ambassador Program, was introduced to be a link between school and prospective and/or new students. The fall hack welcome dinner included the student ambassadors, new students and families, and team members (established parents and school personnel). We shared a meal together and engaged in conversation. Our intent was to establish connections, help new families feel welcome, and hear their stories about transitioning into the school district in order to hear what needed to be improved and to answer questions they might have.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

By incorporating input from current students, parents, and faculty members, we hoped to provide an opportunity to not only welcome and support new families, but to also create a dynamic relationship in which participants felt safe to provide feedback for future engagement strategies. Their comments led to some insights about what our district does well and what needs to be improved. The young leaders represented the school. Their role is to make school a place where everyone feels safe, welcomed, and connected. The ambassadors were a helpful presence at the welcome dinner.


Participation in our evening event was not as large as we had originally planned or anticipated, but what occurred ended up being even more valuable. A smaller group meant more intimate conversations at tables, which made the conversations deeper than if it had been a larger event.

The student ambassadors, “silent leaders” in the school, have an opportunity to lead and connect.
30 new and established students, families and school folk shared rich conversations.
New connections were made among those who attended.
Feedback that we obtained will help assist with future move-in families’ transitions.

Learning Journey

An aspiration inspires us: Create opportunities for teamwork
We focused on new parents and families to the district, but there are countless ways to engage with one another and work toward common goals. Overarching is our aspiration to build opportunities for teamwork between families, educators and administrators to support students’ learning and wellbeing.
Empathy interviews: What we learned helped us set a course
The parent co-lead interviewed a veteran teacher and a building principal. The overarching theme from those interviews was the need for more communication, more time and generally more transactional relationships between parents and school staff. That got us to thinking: If this is a problem for well-established parents, what are we doing for new parents who have no existing connections to the district and the school? These learnings resulted in the welcome-oriented hacks that followed.
The mini-hack: Discovering a new cadre of leaders
The team explored student interest in taking a leadership role to potentially impact the culture, climate and wellbeing of their schools by serving as student ambassadors. The students who were interviewed and surveyed during this mini hack indicated a strong desire to participate in the program and expressed curiosity about when it would start. Due to the positive response to this mini hack, the FASD Student Ambassador Program was rolled out for grades 6-12 in the 2023-24 school year.
An insight: Enacting change requires extra perseverance
The partnership with Parents as Allies and the opportunity for school and parent co-lead roles is a unique way to connect, and together, to design ways to improve community connections. The perspectives represented by these diverse roles is helping drive family and school engagement and build momentum together. Our journey has had its ups and downs, roadblocks and confusion, but it has sharpened our vision and our determination to persevere at this important work.


Our Freeport Area School District (FASD) is home to Buffalo Elementary School, South Buffalo Elementary School, Freeport Area Middle School, and Freeport Area High School. The district is located about 25–30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The community is an interesting mix of Pittsburgh suburbia and rural areas.

Freeport Area School District