We are using cookies to give a better service experience. By using our services you agree to use cookies. Read more

All articles

New Castle Area School District

Implementation of A National Celebration, the Path to Connection

Parental Engagement







Target group
January 2024
If you’re not communicating in a way that reaches your families, you don’t really know what they’re thinking. You can't expect that a school’s one-way communication is reaching everyone and being understood.

About the implementation

We wanted to welcome these families to our school and community. Through different events, like "Movie Night Out," we were able to connect with our families in informal spaces. Teachers and families were able to meet and get to know each other. This helped our families feel more comfortable about sharing their needs with teachers and how they could best support their kids in school.

What did you do in practice?

We created connection points with our families. We did this through an event hosted at the school to celebrate the diversity of our families during National Hispanic Heritage Month. Then, we hosted an event in a neutral space in the community and hosted "Movie Night Out" for our English Language Learner families at a local movie theater. We also offered books in dual languages so families could continue the fun at home. Students and their families (from parents and siblings to grandparents and extended family) along with teachers and their families were all invited.

Why did you do this implementation trial?

Our first hack welcomed our English Language Learner families at school. Then we wanted our English Language Learner families to also know they were welcomed in the community and to experience an everyday activity like the movies with our teachers and staff. The community space helped create a relaxed atmosphere. Parents and teachers saw each other as their "normal selves" and started to bond. Students felt cared for and appreciated the gift of dual-language books to continue the fun and learning at home.


Many families attended the National Hispanic Heritage Month Celebration and the Movie Night Out events! Parents felt welcomed and realized that the teachers and school staff wanted to authentically connect with their students and families. The small details that we focused on helped show that we cared about our families and their unique experiences.

Many families attended and had fun.
The positive atmosphere helped create connections between parents and teachers.
The Latino Affairs commission attended and saw this as a model for other schools.
School board members came to the events and supported ELL families.
Academic connections were positively received by parents and students.
Families felt welcomed in community and school spaces.
Families proactively asked about hosting another event during Black History Month.

Learning Journey

Our Aspiration Statement
Our team began by conducting empathy interviews. Teachers interviewed parents and parents interviewed school staff. We learned that families new to our community wanted to know how to be involved. Many of of families did not feel informed, involved, or comfortable coming to the school. Collectively, we chose this aspiration statement to guide our work: “We will create opportunities for engagement in ways that are responsive to diverse languages, cultural, socioeconomic, and gender backgrounds.”
Fall Hack: National Hispanic Heritage Celebration
We invited all of our ELL families to join us for a fun event at school during National Hispanic Heritage Month. We wanted to celebrate the diversity in our community. The event featured food, hands-on activities, a photo booth and dance lessons. The atmosphere was comfortable and welcoming and we had interpreters at the event. Our teachers attended with their families so parents and teachers could connect at a personal level. And, the athletic teams provided some school spirit cheer.
What we learned
Parents DO want to come to the school. By having a fun, open door event, it helped break the ice for families to feel welcomed and to start to build trusting relationships. We also learned that personal touches are important. For example, the students made decorations for the event and we gave each family a copy of their photo from the photo booth as a lasting memory of a positive experience at school. This small gesture was a step toward relationship building with our ELL families.
Spring Hack: Movie Night Out
We intentionally decided to change the location of our next event to a neutral space in the community. We hosted "Movie Night Out" at the local movie theater and showed the "Super Mario Bros." movie with Spanish subtitles. ELL students and their families were all invited, including grandparents, siblings and extended family. School staff and their families also attended. After the movie, families were given dual language books as a parting gift to help encourage reading at home.
What we learned from our spring hack
It is important to introduce our ELL families to community spaces and resources. By attending a movie together, our families and staff could view each other from a different lens, become familiar with each other, and start developing a trusting relationship to work together. We learned that our ELL families appreciated the fun, informal events AND also appreciated receiving learning resources they could use at home to improve literacy. This academic connection was a highlight for everyone.
What's Next
We've learned that little things matter - and the need for planning to take into consideration the likes, values and experiences of our families. Teachers are incorporating this mindset in the classroom. For example, they now ask their ELL students if they have experience with or if they identify with a particular theme, character, etc., during a lesson. We will continue to build connections with our ELL families and create more opportunities for teachers and parents to connect.


New Castle Area School District is an urban public school district located in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania, which is located approximately 45 miles north of Pittsburgh. The district serves the city of New Castle and Taylor Township. New Castle Area School District encompasses approximately 13 square miles.

New Castle Area School District