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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

Pinellas going door to door to engage parents



knock_knock.The Pinellas school district is doing something unusual and fairly rare this Saturday: Making home visits to better engage parents.

Teams of school officials, district officials and community members will be visiting 100 families – 50 each from Lakewood and Fairmount Park elementary schools.

The short-term goal: To meet parents on their turf. No pressure. No sweat.

The long-term goal: To get them more involved with their children’s education.

“We’re finding more and more parents are not coming out (to schools)," Valerie Brimm, the district's director of strategic partnerships, told The Gradebook. “We have to take it to them. We really have to take it to them and explain the urgency and the passion of, ‘Yeah, we have to do this together.’ “

Brimm said the idea sprung out of a community advisory council that was formed after brawls and arrests at John Hopkins Middle made headlines in the spring of 2010. The district asked the principals at the two schools to identify the families they wanted to reach. A similar effort with families at Hopkins and Melrose Elementary is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 10.

The plan Saturday: say hello, chat, make everybody comfortable – and then, if things are going well, ease into a short survey: What is your rapport with your child’s school? Do you think your child is getting a quality education? Do you feel supported by your school? What do you need to help your child succeed?

The district will tailor its future outreach to those parents based on the responses.

On Saturday, it will bring a pot sweetener, too: $25 gift certificates to Walmart. Brimm said they were paid for with private contributions.

“It’s not like we’re buying them to get engaged,” she said. “It’s to say that this is real, we really want to help. It’s more or less a token of love.”

The district sent letters to the families saying it was coming to visit. Phone messages this week were slated to remind them.

“If we get a chance to talk to at least 10 families on each side, a total of 20, I’ll consider that successful,” Brimm said. “Because a message has been sent, that they were not afraid to come into my neighborhood and go door to door.”

(Image from

[Last modified: Wednesday, November 9, 2011 8:57am]


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