Family Engagement Summit Celebrates Third Year of Success
The Family Engagement Summit is becoming a fall tradition in Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools; for the third year, the halls and classrooms of Culbreth Middle School filled with parents and grandparents, educators, vendors, and even three dogs who serve as Pet Pals. As adults attended a diverse offering of parenting workshops, more than fifty children played games, explored science activities with high school volunteers, and joined in line dances that brought plenty of smiles to both dancers and onlookers.
The Summit is designed and presented by the CHCCS Family Engagement Team, led by Director of Title I and Family and Community Engagement, Roslyn Moffitt. The goal is to provide free, expert advice and information from both district leaders and professionals from the community. The parent education aspect drives the format and workshop selection, but additional goals of building community among families-- and having fun-- are also priorities.
Community vendors were on hand all morning, representing organizations from Triangle Bikeworks to You Can Vote to the Refugee Support Center. During the break between the first and second sessions, participants were treated to performances in the auditorium organized by Dr. Brenda Whiteman, Arts Education Coordinator. The Culbreth eighth grade orchestra played several selections, and Carrboro High School students performed a scene from “Clue,” the upcoming theater production.
This year’s theme was “Molding Magnificent Minds, Developing the Whole Child at Home and School.” The workshops covered academic and developmental subjects for all aged students, including “Raising Robust Readers,” “Stuck in the Middle: The Middle School Years,” “Talking to Your Child about Race,” and “Getting on the Right Path: CTE.”
Moffitt said, “This year’s Summit focused on the ‘whole child.’ We were excited to offer workshops for parents from Pre-K to high school. This was very intentional. We wanted to reach all segments of our parent population, and we had parents attend the sessions from all over the District."
Parent Kari Hamel volunteered as an art group leader to provide increased access and exploration for children who attended the Summit. More than 17 children created pieces for the PTA Art Reflections program. Hamel said she especially wanted to acknowledge the impact and engagement from the CMS School Resource Officer (SRO), Stan Newsome, who spent much of the morning with children. “He took the opportunity to relationship-build with our community's children during the art and board game activities,” Hamel said. “The children loved being asked about the meaning of their art creations by the SRO. The SRO's active listening skills were impressive!”
Many participants chose to attend “Reducing Anxiety” led by Dr. Anita Schimizzi, and as with most of the sessions, the presenter offered a number of hands-on tips and strategies; they practiced Starfish breathing and blowing bubbles in demonstration of the calming power of exhalations as concrete methods for drawing children into the present. “Ask your children to come up with something they’re really good at, and to think about how their body feels when they’re in that experience,” Schimizzi said. “Then ask them to recreate that same feeling, when their anxiety is rising.”
Another popular selection was the workshop on cybersecurity, led by Natalie Wood Riche, outreach specialist in the public protection section of the Department of Justice. Parents learned about basic predatory tactics like grooming, as well as sexting and the hookup culture online. Participants seemed surprised to learn about Vaulty, an app where people hide photos and videos and HiCalculator, a similar privacy app that looks like a phone calculator. Several parents murmured, “Now I’m really scared,” but following the session, the evaluations were all 5 of 5’s. One parent comment was, “Lots of great, eye-opening info about apps and sites. Very helpful info on what to do.”
Wood Riche’s presentation on cybersecurity was her second Summit appearance, and she said the CHCCS parent education event is one of the best in the state. “It was great to be able to have an open dialogue with parents about social media safety for their children,” she said. “The sessions were well organized and gave me an opportunity as a presenter to have a more intimate experience with my parent participants. I enjoy being a part of this great event.”
Sarah Morales and Susan Pizzaloto, school counselors at McDougle Middle and Smith Middle schools, returned for a second year with “Stuck in the Middle,” another popular session that focused on the challenges and rewards of raising preteens, to help them become successful teenagers. They opened the workshop with a demonstration of restorative circles, as parents took turns holding the “talking ball,” and shared their hopes and fears for their upper-elementary and middle school children. Making new friends, transitioning smoothly from fifth grade and achieving increased independence were a few of the hopes; puberty, breakdowns in communication and the specter of school violence were some of the fears expressed.
Eunice Wambugu, a parent with children in middle and high school, attended the cybersecurity workshop and “Next Stop: Real World,” about helping youth plan for life after high school. “I am grateful I attended the Summit because I found it very informative. I learned practical ways in which to apply the knowledge gained as required by my children. The presenters were well informed on their topics and delivered the information in a simple and understandable manner. Thank you to the organizers of the Summit. I look forward to the next one.”
Vickie Fornville’s daughters are in high school and elementary school, and she is a long-time participant in district parent activities. She said, “The Summit did not disappoint. I enjoyed the sessions, and I look forward to continued engagement with CHCCS”.
Assistant Superintendent of Instructional Services, Jessica O’Donovan, said, “The Summit was a great opportunity for our district to partner with our families and dialogue on a range of topics that support student success. Parents asked terrific questions, and also gave us some great suggestions for additional workshops. We hope to implement some of these suggestions in upcoming Parent University sessions.”