Read Principal Hairston’s Standing Ovation Acceptance Speech

March 3, 2016 12:59 PM
by / Topics: Improving Family Engagement

Good evening Chancellor Henderson, Mayor Bowser, guests and colleagues, family and friends. What a privilege it is to be here with you this evening to accept the Award for Excellence in Family Engagement.

In thinking about what I would say this evening I had to do some real reflection on what family engagement really means. Not just what it looks like at C.W. Harris, but what it can be for all of the students and families of Washington, D.C.

Effective family engagement happens when teachers and families work together as partners so that children do better in school and in life.

Creating a community school where families feel like they have a voice can sometimes be difficult. But it can be done. Home visits on the weekend, sacrificing collaborative planning time, coaching and collecting data, hours and hours of prep for Academic Partnering and lots and lots of check ins. All of this has played a part in our success in this work.  It’s because of this work of our teachers and staff that 97% of students state that their families feel welcomed at our school and know what they do in school each day.

It starts in the summer with new teacher training and recruitment and hosting, something we call Home Visit Palooza, when our teachers head out into the neighborhood to begin building relationships with our students and their families. It’s in our teachers who offer to pick up students so they aren’t late for morning meetings or the parents that text teachers to let them know that they are on their way every morning. That’s what we do at C.W. Harris. We’re Vikings. We find a way.

Effective family engagement is when teachers, like the ones here on stage and out there in the audience, recognize that families, every family, is equally important in the education of their children. They recognize that together we have the potential to change the trajectory of a child’s life.  Let that sink in for just a second. What we do with families has the potential to change more than just student outcomes, it can change life outcomes.

All families care about their children and about their education. Just like my mother cared about mine and wanted the best for me, so do the families of students in Washington, D.C.  I have seen all kinds of families in all kinds of schools and not one of them doesn’t want a great life and future for their child.

I would like to thank the Flamboyan Foundation for its vision in this work — our family engagement Coach Courtney Garmon, our lead teachers Susan Freye, Kate Humpton and Rebecca Oppenheim.  Thank you for your selflessness, your dedication and your kindness. To Chief Josephine Robinson and my coach and friend Dr. Vincent Baxter, thank you for your leadership and your support and promotion of this work. To our District leaders, thank you for providing us with the freedom to prioritize family engagement amidst the other competing priorities in this day to day work.

A final thank you to my entire Viking family that never, ever hesitates to find a way.

Thank you.

Heather Hairston,

Principal of C.W. Harris Elementary School

In acceptance of C.W. Harris’  Excellence in Family Engagement Award,

2016 Standing Ovation Awards Ceremony