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National Family Engagement Fellowship

Utah Team

Explore the Utah Team’s findings, vision, and strategic plan, and get to know the people doing this powerful work for students and families in the Beehive State.

Utah Vision

All families in Utah will experience schools as spaces of belonging — spaces where they are welcomed and valued, where they can build relationships and learn with educators, and where their engagement has a positive impact on students and the school.

Welcome to Utah

Utah schools belong to you. You belong in Utah schools.

Members of the National Family Engagement Fellowship Team from Utah have been doing family engagement work in their various capacities across the state for years. Through the Flamboyan Fellowship, the Team has joined forces to develop a statewide approach to family engagement to improve outcomes for students in their schools.

In their landscape assessment, the Utah Team saw a deep lack of trust between families and schools, rooted in history, inequity, and racism. Families didn’t feel like they belonged in their schools, nor did they feel welcomed. To begin rebuilding trust, the Team piloted several educator professional development sessions across the state to both shift educator mindsets and remove assumptions about families. The pilot encouraged educators to reflect on their own identities, and how implicit bias may impact their relationships with families.

As the Utah Team is laying the groundwork to implement their plan, they are focused on leveraging relationships to inform a statewide family engagement vision; defining standards for family engagement; and building a network of family engagement champions across the state. At the local level, the Team is focused on high-quality training and coaching for school leaders, as well as building a data system to document impact and enable stories to continuously refine the important work educators are doing to empower families as partners in their children’s education.

In Their Own Words

“First and foremost is how important it is to have all voices at the table. True family engagement only works when families have a voice and are recognized for ALL of the work they do. The four pillars of welcoming, mindset, relationship of trust, and united definition will drive this equity-based work for me going forward.”

Jadee Talbot
Associate Director of Community Centers, Granite School District

Utah Strategic Plan


We will launch a pilot program to guide district leaders through the process of developing local plans that advance educational equity through family engagement. Family engagement coaches will offer resources, technical assistance, and seed funding to districts as they:

  • Develop local teams made up of diverse stakeholders;
  • Listen to their local communities;
  • Network with and learn from other districts; and
  • Create a plan to improve family engagement in the district.

We will develop an online hub to host a growing library of resources, tools, and stories related to equity-based family engagement across Utah. We will engage educators, families, and community members from across Utah in contributing to the site. When necessary, we will work with partners to develop needed resources. Key resources on the site can include:

  • Helpful frameworks and best practices
  • Stories of success and struggle from around the state
  • An evolving, crowd-sourced vision for family engagement in Utah
  • Tools to evaluate and assess family engagement
  • Videos from family engagement “influencers”
  • Ways to network with peers from around the state

We will bring together a collaborative group of stakeholders to guide the Belonging Schools Initiative through its initial launch and ongoing research-based evolution. The collaborative will have diverse representation from:

  • Public preK-12 and Higher Ed Systems;
  • Grassroots community-based and parent-led organizations; and
  • Private and non-profit partners.

Download the Strategic Plan

Utah’s vision is that all families in Utah will experience schools as spaces of belonging — spaces where they are welcomed and valued, where they can build relationships and learn with educators, and where their engagement has a positive impact on students and the school.

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Utah Team Talk | What Does It Mean To Belong?

The Utah Fellowship team created the “Belonging School Initiative” to make sure that every family feels welcomed into the school system.

Fellowship participants

Meet the Team

Granite School District

Associate Director, Community Centers

Jadee began his career in education and family engagement 15 years ago when he worked with children with moderate-to-severe disabilities. As a classroom aide, he realized that parent engagement was very important and credits it as a contributing factor in his education career trajectory. Jadee has worn many hats in the education landscape – at the school level as a teacher, assistant principal, and principal – and at the district level as Associate Director of Education Equity for Granite School District. In this role, he oversees 30 community centers that focus on engaging families and the community, and after school programs.

Connect with Jadee via LinkedIn.

University Neighborhood Partners


Jenny is the Director of University Neighborhood Partners (UNP) and Special Assistant to the President for Campus-Community Partnerships at the University of Utah. Previously, she served as the Director of Family-School Collaboration at the Salt Lake City School District (SLCSD) working to build authentic family-school and community partnerships focusing on the varied needs, hopes and dreams of underserved communities in SLC. She was an administrator at Glendale Middle School, Mountain View Elementary and Community Learning Center. She also served as the Alternative Language Services Coordinator and language and culture coach (for teachers) for the SLCSD. Prior to that she was an ESL and Special Education teacher.

When Jenny isn’t working toward social justice in an educational setting, she is doing community advocacy work with the Utah Coalition of La Raza (UCLR), working to increase the number of Latinx teachers and administrators with the Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents-Utah (ALAS-U) and advising the Utah State Board of Education on the Advisory Committee for Equity of Educational Services for Students.

Connect with Jenny via LinkedIn.

University Neighborhood Partners

Associate Director

Paul Kuttner is Associate Director at University Neighborhood Partners, University of Utah. In this role, Paul builds university-community partnerships that promote educational equity, access, and justice for young people while producing valuable knowledge to advance scholarship and social change. A native of Boston, Paul earned his masters and doctorate from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Prior to his doctoral studies, Paul worked as an educator teaching theater, creative writing, and civic engagement in schools and community organizations across Chicago.

Paul is a qualitative researcher, committed to engaged scholarship conducted in partnership with youth, schools, and communities. Paul’s research focuses on the interconnections between educational institutions and communities that have been marginalized by the education system. Specific topics include family engagement, parent and youth organizing, university-community partnerships, and the role of culture in education and social change. Paul is a co-author, with Karen Mapp, of Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, and a co-editor of Disrupting the School-to-Prison Pipeline (HER, 2012). His work has been published in both academic and popular venues, including Harvard Educational Review, Teachers College Record, and Curriculum Inquiry. He is a board member for Mestizo Institute of Culture and Arts and a Cabinet member for the US Department of Arts and Culture. Paul blogs at

Connect with Paul via LinkedIn.

Utah State Board of Education

Family/Community Engagement Specialist

Sheryl is the Family/Community Engagement Specialist for the Utah State Board of Education (USBE). She graduated from Brigham Young University with a bachelor’s in communications and a minor in sociology in 2007. She later earned her master’s degree in early childhood education from George Mason University as a Teach for America Corps Member. Eventually, Sheryl was hired to be part of the turnaround faculty at Stanton Elementary, which was the lowest performing elementary school in D.C. While teaching there, Stanton went from being the 71st lowest performing to the first school out of priority status. She attributes a lot of the school’s growth to the intensive work done with the families and school community.

In her current role at USBE, Sheryl researches and assembles a repertoire of meaningful parent and family engagement practices and strategies that can be developed into a Parent and Family Engagement Handbook. She also serves as lead facilitator and trainer for evidenced-based family engagement strategies that include relationship-building home visits and Academic Parent Teacher Teams (APTT) meetings.

Connect with Sheryl via LinkedIn.

The Family Engagement Advisory Board is made up of Utah parents, educators, administrators, and other stakeholders. The Advisory Board supported each step of the fellowship process locally, offering much needed expertise, connections, advice, insight, and advocacy.

Family Engagement Advisory Committee

  • Adriana Pinto, Assistant Principal, Liberty Elementary School, SLCSD
  • Almaida Yanagui, Community Organizer & Assistant Partnership Manager, University Neighborhood Partners
  • Amy Fox, Parent & National Standards Specialist, Utah PTA
  • Ana Martinez, School Garden Program Coordinator, Wasatch Community Gardens
  • Andrea Garavito Martinez, Community School Facilitator, Hillcrest High School, Canyons School District
  • Bridgette Barrowes, Director of Special Education, Pacific Heritage Academy
  • Deirdre Straight, Parent & SCC Chair, Highland High School, SLCSD
  • Fatai Tuifua, Teacher, Mana Academy
  • Israel Corrales, TRIO Mentor, University of Utah
  • Janessa Crandall, Teacher, Lincoln Elementary School, Granite School District
  • Marcus Mailei, Parent, Canyons School District
  • Val Murdock, Title 1 Monitoring, Utah State Board of Education
  • Kamille Sheikh, Education Specialist, Utah State Board of Education
  • Igor Limansky, Senior Director of Grassroots Leadership Development, United Way Salt Lake
  • Rebecca Lewis, Special Education Support Staff, Utah State Board of Education
  • Jodi Lusty, Parent Engagement Coordinator, Granite School District

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