STEPS Alaska Updates
Stepping Up for Alaska's Youth!
Previous Newsletters
Family Engagement
All About Family Engagement!

Building on the research and common knowledge that family engagement improves student achievement, reduces absenteeism, and helps students successfully transition across their educational career, STEPS partners are working in their communities and across the region on deepening family partnerships for student success.

This is anticipated to directly impact grades, social and emotional skills, and students connection to the school. This newsletter will be focusing on the amazing work STEPS communities have done regarding family engagement!
Partner Highlights
Juneau School District Learns About Family Engagement at Harvard Institute!
This past summer, a team of eight Juneau School District employees had the opportunity to attend the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s Family Engagement in Education Institute alongside partners from AASB.
Our cohort of principals, district office administrators, counselors and family engagement specialist learned about cutting-edge family engagement research and strategies among hundreds of others from around the country and around the world. In addition to working as a team to solidify our understanding of what family engagement means and should mean in Juneau, based on the Dual Capacity Building Framework that we already know and love, we dipped into a variety of really valuable workshop sessions that informed our thinking and continue to inform our work this Fall.

JSD/AASB staff learning about family engagement strategies at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.
Sitka: Baranof Elementary School Busmobile
The wheels on the bus go…wherever there are five-year olds ready for kindergarten! Baranof Elementary School in Sitka had a plan for enrolling pre-school children in kindergarten. The challenge was identifying and enrolling children who are not in formal pre-school.

Last April, Principal Jill Lecrone took to the streets with a "busmobile" to bring registration to neighborhoods and family-friendly locations. The goal was to encourage enrollment, answer questions about kindergarten, and get a timely and accurate enrollment figure. Read this article to find out more about Sitka's Busmobile project!

Sitka: Focus Groups
The Sitka School District recently conducted several focus groups surrounding their Wooch.een preschool initiative. Wooch.een Yei Jigaxtoonei, or the We are Working Together Preschool Program, is a joint project between the Sitka School District, Sitka Tribe, and Tlingit & Haida Head Start. This program is a great model of community collaboration to create a culturally-responsive kindergarten readiness curriculum for low-income students.

8 families were chosen to provide feedback regarding Wooch.een. Please read more in order to find out more about their findings!

Baranof Elementary School students enjoying the free book giveaway at the Sitka Busmobile!
Photo: James Poulson, The Sitka Sentinel
Speaker Highlight
STEPS districts are invited to participate in the AASB annual pre-conference day focused on family engagement for student outcomes. This day will include national presenter, some concepts to support authentic family partnership, statewide sharing on family engagement, and will invite participation and input into a statewide family partnership framework. This pre-conference day will also feature Michele Brooks. 
AASB Annual Conference Speaker Highlight: Michele Brooks, M.Ed.
Michele Brooks is a parent activist, educational advocate and educator
who currently serves as the principal consultant for Transformative Solutions in Education. Ms. Brooks served as the Assistant Superintendent for Family and Student Engagement for the Boston Public Schools from 2008 until 2015, where her implementation of systemic engagement influenced the U.S. Department of Education’s Dual Capacity-building Framework. As a result, in 2013 she was recognized as one of sixteen Leaders to Learn From by Education Week Magazine. Prior to serving in this role Brooks was the founding director of the Boston Parent Organizing Network, serving from 1999 until 2005. She has also served as a member of the Boston School Committee from 2004 – 2008. Brooks holds a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Psychology from Cambridge College and a Master’s Degree in Education Policy and Management from Harvard University.
Michele Brooks
Photo: Charlie Mahoney/Prime for Education Week
Around the STEPS Community
Check out upcoming events and resources occurring within STEPS!
Upcoming Events
SEE 2019: SouthEast Exchange

Oct. 24, 2019 at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center

On Thursday, October 24, 2019 from 5-7 pm at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center S.E.E. will host a night of networking between professionals and the education community in Juneau. The event is intended to break down barriers between the community and our schools by offering a fun environment to make personal connections. To learn more, call Brenda Taylor at 321-1433, or email or

Alaska Afterschool Conference 

Nov. 7-8, 2019 at Centennial Hall in Juneau

This year's conference will feature more than 40 workshops, keynote speeches, working lunches, networking reception, deep dive workshops, morning group fitness, and much more! Register now and save with Early Bird Registration ($100).

There will be two Preconference offerings: Healthy Lifestyles and Staff Social and Emotional Learning & Leadership. Both Preconference Institute sessions will be held on November 6, prior to the regular 2-day Alaska Afterschool Conference on November 7-8. The Preconference Institute is geared toward all afterschool program types and space is limited to 50 participants each session.

Juneau Coaches Summit

Nov. 9, 2019 at Juneau-Douglas High School

The 2019 Coaches Summit provides a day of professional development and connection for youth coaches in Juneau and around Southeast Alaska. The event will run from 9 am to 5 pm. The goal of the summit is to give coaches the tools for creating sports programs that both support youth in connecting, growing, and competing, and enhance youths’ lives moving into the future. The keynote speaker is John O’Sullivan, founder of the Changing The Game Project and author of several books on coaching youth sports.

AASB 66th Annual Conference/Youth Leadership Institute

Nov. 7-10, 2019 at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel

All school board members and their superintendents from around the state are encouraged to attend the AASB’s Annual Conference to learn more about the policies and practices that support positive outcomes for students. The Youth Leadership Institute is desigined for high school students to build leadership skills and learn how to advocate form themselves and their peers. If you know of high school students from your community who may be interested in attending the Youth Leadership Institute encourage them to talk with school board members or administrators about registering for the Institute. School staff working on family engagement who are interested in joining the Pre-conference day on Family Engagement featuring Michele Brooks can contact Lisa Worl,

Rise Up for Equity: A National Summit on Community Schools & Family Engagement

May 27-29, 2020 at the Los Angeles Convention Center

The Institute for Educational Leadership is having a national conference around family engagement next year in Los Angeles, CA. Creating the impact and equity we want for our most vulnerable children, youth, and families, requires us all to deepen our collaboration and authentically engage parents, families and community-based partners. The Rise Up for Equity National Summit offers an incredible opportunity to explore innovative strategies, learn from your peers all over the country, and expand networks of support and action.

Farm to School Grant Program

Farm to School programs are another way to help build connection between families - and communities - and schools , The USDA is accepting applications for the Farm to School Grant program through December 13th.  Grants are available for training, supporting operations, planning, purchasing equipment, developing school gardens, developing partnerships, and implementing farm to school programs. 

This year, up to $10 million will be awarded to schools, school districts, nonprofits, State and local agencies, agricultural producers, and Indian tribal organizations to plan, and implement farm to school activities. Grants ranging in size from $20,000 to $100,000 will be available for approved proposals in FY 2020. All interested applicants are encouraged to visit the announcement HERE.

And if you have more fish than farms in your community, check out Sitka’s Fish to School’s Program as well as other innovative ideas from Native communities around the country.

AASB Family Engagement Pre-Conference

Nov. 7, 2019 at the Anchorage Hilton Hotel

A strong relationship between students, families, their communities and schools and the programs students are part of can help students be more successful in school and life. Join AASB’s pre-conference on Family Engagement to learn about effective community and family relationship building practices and ways to strengthen your current relationship building strategies.  Learn about work happening nationally and in our state, best practices for engagement and examples of successful strategies. 

AASB is proud to have guest speaker Michele Brooks, share her experience and expertise in engaging families in education, as well as work with districts to plan their own family engagement plan. You will also get a chance to give feedback on Alaska’s own Family Engagement framework, developed by AASB and partners across the state.

School staff working on family engagement who are interested in joining the Pre-conference day on Family Engagement featuring Michele Brooks can contact Lisa Worl,
NAFSCE October Effective Practices Webinar: Family and Community Engagement in STEM

There will be a STEM engagement webinar on October 30, 2019 at 11:00 AM Alaska Standard Time. In this conversational webinar, Linda Kekelis, Advisor for the Family Engagement Project at STEM Next Opportunity Fund, will share bright spots, lessons learned, and resources for supporting families in STEM from out-of-school-time programs in various settings across the country. Additionally, Tina Glover will present on how Urban Advantage is partnering with NYC schools and museums to provide students and families STEM engagement opportunities.
Alaska Education Network - Project ECHO Webinar: How to Increase Family Engagement

There will be a family engagement webinar on November 5, 2019 from 4:00-5:15 PM Alaska Standard Time. It will be presented by Karin Halpin, principal from the Lower Kuskokwim School District. This will be a valuable resource for anyone who wants to build the capacity of families to support student success!
Send us your stories by the 8th to get your work featured in the STEPS Newsletter!
Family Engagement Research
Why is family engagement important?

According to the 2019 Student Climate and Connectedness Survey, family engagement is highly correlated to PEAKS reading scores. For STEPS students grades 6-12, having "lots of parents come to events at my school" is the best indicator for PEAKS reading achievement, second only to PEAKS mathematics achievement. It is more correlated to PEAKS reading scores than factors such as "being prepared for tests" or "this schools is badly affected by crime and violence."
Family Engagement Articles
How to Get Kids Talking About Their School Day
The Conversation

Here is a great article showing strategies for getting children of different ages to open up and share things about their school day. Different grades require different strategies, so if your child seems hesitant to talk about their day, try some of these tips!

Putting Families at the Center: Key Takeaways from the Los Angeles Family Engagement Summit
Engage R+D

The LA Partnership for Early Childhood Investment and First 5 LA, recently hosted Families at the Center Summit which brought together parents and leaders from community programs, schools, health organizations, funders, and researchers to talk about how to engage families in ways that are more informed, aligned and connected. Here are some takeaways from that summit!

Boston Leader Connects Parents to Learning
Education Week Magazine

Michele Brooks is a Boston-area education advocate and family engagement specialist who will be the keynote speaker at the annual AASB conference in November! Please read this article showcasing her achievements and journey from engaged parent to nationally renowned advocate.

Supporting Transitions and Educational Promise is a Collective Impact effort between regional partners and partners in Angoon, Hoonah, Hydaburg, Juneau, Klukwan, Sitka, and Yakutat which strives to improve outcomes for Southeast Alaska’s youth. We aim to do that by:
  • Ensuring that all kids - from womb to world - are safe and supported in their schools, homes, and communities
  • Partnering to smooth transitions, fill gaps, and align existing resources
  • Collaborating to move the needle on key measures

STEPS Alaska is made possible by the US Department of Education Promise Neighborhoods funding award to the Association of Alaska School Boards
The US Department of Education Promise Neighborhood Grant U215N170038 supports cradle to career solutions for the STEPS AK partners. This publication is the sole responsibility of the Association of Alaska School Boards and its contributors.