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Table Talk - FASD Welcoming Dinner

The perspectives of new parents are valuable sources of what works and what doesn’t

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 in the connections felt between parents, teachers, and school administrators. This information inspired a new student ambassador’s program.


Information on this page is provided by the innovator and has not been evaluated by HundrED.

Web presence






Target group
January 2024
Having the time and space and an assigned committee of parents and school people to talk, plan and organize family and school engagement is an advantage. It is challenging—lots of scheduling, but all the right voices are in the room and that can make the difference where relationship and trust-building are the goals.

About the innovation

Why did you create this innovation?

The superintendent volunteered us to participate in the Parents as Allies initiative. The district was growing and the superintendent wanted “welcoming” to be the theme. His specific ideas for making that happen didn’t fully align with the team’s iterative and evolving ideas. To his credit, once he understood the compelling nature of the team’s journey, he was on board with the team’s approach.

What does your innovation look like in practice?

We wanted to work together with students, families, and school personnel to create an environment in which feedback had the chance to enhance future engagement and transition strategies for new students and families. We also wanted our newest families to feel welcome and establish new connections with current district members. A welcoming dinner included new students and families, student ambassadors, and team members (established parents and school personnel).

At this dinner, we were seated at small group tables, shared a meal together and engaged in meaningful conversation. We not only wanted to establish connections and make new families feel welcome, we also wanted to hear their stories about their move-in and transition into our school district. We were able to gather some insight into what our district does well and what we can improve upon for future families, answer some lingering questions the families had, as well as overall just have a really nice evening.

How has it been spreading?

FASD continues to incorporate the New Student Ambassador program into various events. The program will continue and evolve, and will be extended to the elementary schools. It was school leaders who selected the student ambassadors, the “silent leaders” in the classroom who are benefitting from the opportunity to lead and connect. That was an unexpected and positive outcome.

We hope to make a fall welcoming event a yearly occurrence - whether it is a dinner as we did or something a bit different. We also plan to use our data to put together welcoming packets for new move-in families to help ease their transitions.

The superintendent was on board from the start and works with us if our directions diverge. That is a huge asset.

If I want to try it, what should I do?

Be ready to adjust as conditions change. We didn’t get the response we wanted to our welcome dinner but organization of the space using small tables, led to an even better outcome. Also, you have a team: listen, and draw on their experience. A team, made up of parents and school personnel, puts the right voices in the room. Don’t forget about students and the resource they represent!

Spread of the innovation

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