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New Brighton Area School District

Implementation of Two-Way Postcards

Parental Engagement
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Target group
January 2024
You have to make family-school engagement a high priority. It takes planning and work. It takes discussion. It also takes trust. You need to have a 'we can do this' attitude. You can’t quantify what it does for the family and students.

About the implementation

Our theme at school is "Embrace the Hub," an encouragement to families and students to see the school as a hub in the community. To alleviate new school year worries, we hosted a "Back to School Bash" and also highlighted community resources for families. Parents, students and teachers were able to meet informally and families gained new resources to make it a great school year.

What did you do in practice?

We hosted two events that helped engage parents with teachers and support their kids. As noted, the Back to School Bash included a community resource fair for families prior to the school year. The other event was an end-of-year carnival style celebration that engaged parents beyond the faithful PTO parents who generally volunteer. We also provided postcards for parents and teachers to exchange positive messages during the school year about a student they had in common. All of these touchpoint led to better communication and deeper trust.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

We wanted to create intentional opportunities for parents, students and teachers to meet and engage in fun activities that provided mutual insight or insight into educating the children. We embraced the idea of school being the hub of the community. Whether it was a back-to-school resource fair, postcard updates or the end-of-year carnival, these represented ways for the families and school to connect, build relationships and trust, and appreciate their shared interest in and commitment to the well being and success of students.


We were thrilled with our family-school engagement hacks! We felt there were authentic connections between parents, students and teachers and new communication channels were opened. The Back to School Bash eased anxieties about the new school year. Postcards kept parents and teachers connected and the carnival celebrated the learning achievements of the kids and engaged new parent volunteers.

250 kids and families joined us for the Back to School Bash.
Nearly 2/3 of teachers volunteered to join us for this optional evening.
21 community groups hosted tables with resources for families.
We are already planning for next year's Open House with new ideas learned from this event.
There was a huge, memorable reaction from the kids for their fun end of year celebration.
New parent volunteers emerged to help with the Carnival.
A new communication channel opened between teacher and parents through postcard mailings.

Learning Journey

Empathy Interviews
Our team of parents, teachers and school leaders interviewed different stakeholders to better understand the needs of our school community. We heard questions from parents about how they could better teach and help their children at home. We heard teachers asking how they could improve communication between them and parents. And, we realized we wanted to proactively reach families we were not engaging on a regular basis. These insights helped us form our goals.
Aspirational Statement
Reflecting upon our empathy interviews, we wanted to focus on developing our school as a community hub. Our campaign is to "embrace the hub" and for our families and students to see school as a positive and central role in their lives, whether it is related to learning, social/emotional wellness or helping to provide the necessities. Our aspirational statement is to "build opportunities for teamwork between families, educators and administrators to support students’ learning and wellbeing."
Fall Hack: "Back to School Bash"
Embracing our role as a community hub, we hosted a meet the school night with a community resource fair prior to the new school year. Students and parents were invited to meet their teachers, see the school, engage in activities and visit resource tables hosted by various community members. Food and drink were offered. Teachers, students and parents connected in informal conversation which helped build comfort and trust. And, families learned about resources from community organizations.
Lessons Learned
For incoming kindergartners, the Back to School Bash was a Disneyland-like experience! They were excited to meet their teachers and worries were calmed about starting a new school. Also, by hosting the event prior to the official opening of school, parents and teachers simply focused on getting to know each other, rather than prematurely discussing school progress. This helped parents and teachers sow seeds of a relationship at an important time, the start of the school year.
New Communication Channel: Postcards
We experimented with a new idea to increase communications. We printed and distributed postcards to teachers and parents. Teachers had postcards pre-addressed to their students' parents and could write a positive note home when they noticed something about their student. And, parents also received a postcard pre-addressed to their teacher at school and could send a postcard about something they noticed at home related to school. These unexpected notes brought joy to both parents and teachers.
Another Hack: Carnival Celebration
We wanted to celebrate the achievements of all of our students at the end of the school year. Historically, we had only 5 active members of the Parent Teacher Organization. We decided to host a carnival and hoped more parents would engage and volunteer. The carnival featured a dunk tank, games, bounce house, food and sweet treats. It was a huge success! More parents helped host the carnival and all the kids were able to participate and be celebrated because it was held during the school day.
Our secret sauce was our team approach. We learned to trust each other and listen to each other's ideas. We took calculated risks together and we were ok if it didn't go as planned as long as we tried. It was also important that we thought about how parental engagement correlated with student academic success. For example, daily school attendance has increased because of the different family-school engagement successes. We share this widely so parents know they play an important role.


New Brighton Area school district is located in the middle of Beaver County, Pennsylvania. It encompasses the communities of New Brighton Borough, Daugherty Township, Pulaski Township, and Fallston Borough. Over 12,500 people live in the 12 square miles of the district.

New Brighton Area School District