"Our one-page school snapshots have been used in many creative ways," reports Pamela Dungy, director of the Community and Family Engagement Network (CFEN). "School administrators are including them in their school newsletters and school yearbooks. They have also included a link to CFENs snapshot Web page on their schools Web site for easy access to families. Hits to the CFEN Web site have tripled in the last year."
Designing a snapshot for each of more than 100 schools in the Fresno Unified School District, the fourth largest school district in California, was a time-consuming task but an essential one. Dungy and her colleagues recognized the value of a "snapshot" page with photos, names, and contact information for key personnel as well as school hours, the school calendar, dress codes, and a map.
Many families have shared that the snapshots are a handy quick reference for vital information about their children's schools. The pages help newcomers immediately recognize administrators and staff and identify existing programs that welcome family engagement.
The summaries are especially helpful to the families of English Language Learners, which comprise 30 percent of the district's 80,000 students. Students in Fresno schools speak 78 languages, and by request, CFEN is currently in the process of translating the school snapshots into Spanish, Hmong, Khmer, and Lao.
Beyond an online tool, each snapshot is published in the form of a document that can be downloaded and printed as required. Print copies are provided for new families in district offices when they register their children and in each school's office. The pages are also distributed at back-to-school events, open house, and all types of school-related meetings. School counselors and social workers give out the snapshots, too, and printed copies are taken to families when school liaisons or teachers make home visits.
Even community, business, and university leaders utilize the snapshots to enable them to more effectively engage with and support the schools. Probably the strongest evidence that the program is working comes from district offices and departments themselves, which Dungy states are now asking CFEN to develop snapshots for them.
"Schools are very appreciative that CFEN has made a commitment to ensure that the information in each snapshot is very current," Dungy told Education World. "Each school is supported by a CFEN manager and a CFEN liaison. One of the ongoing responsibilities of each liaison is to monitor the school and notify the CFEN manager and the CFEN webmaster of any changes to personnel or snapshot information."
The human relations department supports the program by notifying CFEN as retirements, transfers, and new additions to staff occur. On the night that new administrators are approved by the board of trustees, a photograph is taken for the school snapshot.
"It is essential that one person is dedicated to these snapshots," says Dungy. "This person must be computer literate and responsible for developing each personalized school snapshot, as well as monitoring and updating these snapshots in a timely manner."
The webmaster is available daily to take photos at the CFEN office, and liaisons go to school sites to photograph new personnel. It is the webmaster's responsibility to make changes, upload them to the Web site, have the changes proofread, and notify the school that updates to the snapshot have been made.
"Although it was difficult to gather all of the personalized information for so many schools, this program has proven to be a very worthwhile tool to welcome family and community engagement and promote a service-friendly district," Dungy added.[content block]