Dear Flamboyan Community,
I must admit that lately I start many of my days with a heaviness of living with the sad realities our nation is facing. As a Black woman, I am used to this heavy feeling, which I overcome by nurturing a constant cycle of healing that insists on me choosing joy as an act of my own personal resistance to the onslaught of attacks that greet me daily in the news cycle. Wherever you are, I hope you are well and that you are choosing what best serves you this summer.
For me, summer is an exciting time of rest, renewal, and recharge as I spend time with my family and get ready for the upcoming school year. For Flamboyan, summer is also a time of reflection and reinvigoration as we begin our new fiscal year on July 1. You last heard from me in December when we closed out 2021 with joy and gratitude, and as we embark on a new year in our DC office, I’m coming back to you with more good news to share.
When I assumed the role of DC Executive Director just over one year ago, I committed to shepherding a shared vision for REAL Family Engagement’s impact, growth, and sustainability over the next several years. It was a bold vision, especially amid a challenging pandemic and an uncertain future. Since March 2020, we have been investigating and interrogating how the pandemic has changed our work and persisting through the questions that may not yet have answers. Today, I feel more confident than ever in our ability to realize that bold vision through our commitment to people, proximity, and purpose.
Our work is nothing without our team, which is why you’ll find “People” in our Four Core Values. Over the past year, we have hired and onboarded 15 new staff members across all departments of our DC office, as well as three new parent and teacher trainers who you’ll see in Flamboyan trainings starting this month! This has been a truly transformative year for our people, and I believe in the power of this team to not just move this work forward in a meaningful way, but also be creative and innovative in how we support our partners and their unique needs in this evolving normal. I hope you’ll join me in welcoming our new team members to the Flamboyan community, and in reconnecting with the familiar faces as well! And if you or someone you know is interested in joining the Flamboyan DC team, be on the lookout for a few more role openings in our office in the coming months.
Thanks to vaccines, masks, and rigorous protocols, our entire DC team has been back in the office since September 2021. Adjusting to our new normal has of course had its challenges, but we are truly experiencing the value of being back in community with our partners and each other. This proximity to and solidarity with our communities has reenergized our work in ways that make my heart full and our collaboration soar. Coaches are back supporting our school partners in person; we saw old friends and made new ones at the National Community Schools and Family Engagement Conference in Los Angeles; I connected with state education leaders at the Hunt Institute’s retreat in North Carolina; and this summer and fall, we will welcome our National Fellowship teams to DC for the first time since their cohort launched in November 2020! Rebuilding our muscles around in-person work has been a critical part of our “why,” and I’m deeply proud of how we have persisted through ambiguity and uncertainty to stay close to our communities.
I am also proud of the work currently happening with our rural community partners. Education and community leaders in West Virginia and South Dakota have spent much of the last year engaged in deep listening with families whose voices have historically been sidelined. Meanwhile, some of our National Fellowship alumni in Utah are on the verge of launching listening roundtables to support family engagement initiatives in their state. We are looking forward to supporting our rural partners in person this year, and our team is cooking up some innovative ways for us to convene and share what we’re learning through our rural partnerships – stay tuned for more on that.
In everything, we connect back to our purpose – why we wake up and do this work every day; why we believe that family engagement is a critical lever to promoting equity; and why we listen, learn, and adapt to meet our stakeholders’ needs. As I reflect on this past year, I see our purpose in so much of what we accomplished. We invested $125,000 in joyful experiences for DC students and families this year through our Back to School with JOY grants; we committed $100,000 to support REAL Family Engagement in DC Public Schools’ Capital Commitment strategic plan; we supported 25 active school partners and 23 graduated partners in DC, including issuing $30,000 to help schools remove barriers to family engagement; and we hosted 45 trainings for nearly 1,800 educators. We’ve even seen the impact of this work in our alumni regions, like one Dallas school’s model approach to family engagement.
As I think ahead to this next year and beyond, I’m excited for the opportunity to reground in our purpose as we embark on creating our next three-to-five-year strategic plan. We’re kicking that into high gear this fall, and I can’t wait to be back in touch with more updates on that front. We know that many of you will be key partners in our hopes and dreams for Flamboyan’s future.
Thank you for being part of this work, part of our community, and part of making meaningful, lasting impact for students and families across this country. Enjoy the rest of your summer and don’t forget to follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn for updates from our team!
Executive Director, DC