#57 – One Week Behind the Scenes of Family Empowerment Work

Well aren’t you just throwing events? When it comes to family empowerment work, we’ve been asked that question more times than we’d care to admit. So, we’re giving you a peek into what a week of family empowerment work looks like—the time, attention, and thought that goes into, yes pulling together an event, but also gathering the necessary data to remove the guess work in decision making and responding to feedback intentionally.

* Please note, this isn’t every task associated with our family empowerment work, just a snapshot of one week. As with any job, we also take time for team meetings, email and calls—but we’ll spare you a play-by-play of those details here.


(2.5 hours) One element of our family engagement initiative is to document the project through a three minute video. To create the minute video we’ve scheduled four filming sessions, and one of those will be on Wednesday. Several stakeholders joined together to create the vision for the video, and I’m working with the videographer to make sure that gets executed. We’ve decided to capture several family interviews from each school speaking to the family night experience. 

  • I identify 10 families based on family night attendance data (attending the highest number of family nights) and request contact information from Ashley Park for these families. 
  • I make calls to families to ask if they’re willing to participate in 10-15 minute interviews prior to the next family night. From the 10 family contacts, I only have one family able to participate and one family as a maybe, so we repeat the process.
  • We end with three families committed to coming on Wednesday from 4:30-5:30pm, a huge ask with busy lives and work schedules. I email and text an outline of topics and a few questions we’ve outlined to ease the butterflies of being in front of a camera. 

(1 hour) A key component of family empowerment events is to invite community partners. We work to invite community partners that respond to requests made by families through surveys and established feedback loops. 

  • A second invite is sent out to our existing email group of partners. 
  • I review what additional partners need to be invited based on who has RSVP’d and the feedback provided at the previous event. Are there partners in a specific area, such as housing support or financial literacy that are being requested? I then loop in the organizations that can best answer these requests.

(1.5 hours) The RSVP system is crucial for running a successful event. We use this system to gauge how many scholars and families are expected at family night event. In addition to creating a Google Form, I collaborate with the school on the design of a paper RSVP that goes home with students. Starting four days before a family empowerment event, we pick up returned paper copies of RSVPs. We calculate how many people to expect between the paper RSVPs and the electronic RSVPs, and breakdown expected attendee by grade level as well. We use grade-level breakdowns for planning purposes, to make sure our original set-up will hold, and as a little bit of competitive fuel among teachers to urge their students and families to come. This baseline RSVP is also crucial for placing a food order with the establishment requested by member of the FEC at the previous meeting.

(1 hour) Send out the initial invite and RSVP form to community partners for an upcoming event at another partner school. As mentioned earlier, partners are invited based on family requests on feedback forms and conversations at events, and school staff bringing attention to specific areas or partners at FEC meetings.


(45 minutes) I meet with the school leader to finalize details for tomorrow’s event. Locations, flow, timing changes, etc. 

(2 hours) The day leading up to a family night event often largely focuses on solidifying the details on documents to make the night run smoothly. 

  • I create and send over a Run of Show document for the school staff 
  • At each event we distribute three documents: an agenda detailing what’s happening when/where, an exit survey to capture feedback about the event, and a save the date to remind attendees about the next event. 
  • I work with our evaluation partner to revise some of our questions to get higher quality feedback and data.

(1 hour) In any work, communication is critical to avoiding hiccups. We strive to stay on top of communication with everyone involved with family night to keep things running smoothly. 

  • Email to SchermCo team that will be present at the event detailing the night’s events doling out roles and responsibilities.
  • Email to community partners informing them of logitical information (parking, timing, agenda, etc.).

(3 hours) We’re working to formally evaluate this initiative with evaluation partners. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been spending about 25 hours finalizing data for the 18/19 initiative to handoff to our eval partner. This marks the final day of finalization! I coordinate with this partner a time to handoff the data, as it has to be done in person.


(1 hour) Reminder texts and emails are sent to each family that agreed to participate in the video interview. This prompts a family to inform me they’re no longer able to make it. I scramble to connect with additional families to participate in the project, as it’s imperative to the vision of the video to capture a diversity of voices from the school community. After several tries, a family is able to participate.

(45 minutes) Promising Pages is a great organization in Charlotte that collects donated books and distributes them to underserved populations. We’re lucky to work with them to provide free books for scholars and adults at each family event. We recently extended the book offering to adult options after receiving survey feedback that adults would use books as well. Promising Pages provides a total of 170 books, a combination of books they have pre-packed, and based on notes I included in my order submission, I am able to self-select additional books that match the event’s theme, Milestones in African-American History. We aim to provide about a book for every scholar at family empowerment events, and a selection for adults.

(45 minutes) All printed materials (agenda, exit surveys, etc.) must be picked up from FedEx.

(30 minutes) I meet with the evaluation partner to handoff 18/19 data.

(1.5 hours) Family Night, almost! I arrive to the school two hours prior to the event to begin preparation. Based on FEC (Family Empowerment Committee) feedback we’re testing two initiatives to increase staff energy leading up to the event and show appreciation for extra time and energy put forth:

  • Food, as often teachers and staff don’t get the time to eat from lunch until after the event
  • 15-minute chair massages the day after the event, as staff are pouring all their energy into the event

Set-up includes:

  • Teacher “pump-up” room with food and snacks
  • Community partner tables and chairs
  • Books from Promising Pages
  • Tables for Dinner
  • Ensuring staff has everything they need for a successful night 

(1.5 hours) I conduct the interviews with families, and the video team captures amazing content and stories (in my unbiased opinion).

(2 hours) Family Night runs from 5:30-7pm. Each event has a unique theme that is decided on by FEC members and informed by feedback from families. This event is celebrating African-American History Month with student created museum hallways honoring four distinct historical eras. Students have created work, including art work, performances, and reports to represent inspiring figures and ideas from each eras.

Agenda for the event:

  • 5:20-5:40 Sign-in
  • 5:40-6:30 Families are invited to explore four historical museum hallways with students (and staff) as their tour guides, connect with teachers
  • 6:30-6:45 Connect with community partners
  • 6:45-7:00 Fill out Exit Survey, grab a Promising Pages book and dinner to go

Over 90 unique families attended this event totaling about 340 family members and scholars.

As the night concludes, we clean up the school to make sure everything looks as it did before the event.


(3.5 hours) After an event, I input and analyze all feedback provided by families via Exit Surveys. At a typical event, about 55-60% of families return surveys, so we’re typically working with feedback from about 55 families depending on the size of the family empowerment event. We’re asking about everything from how relevant the event was to their family to how to improve to resouces they’d like to see. I also digitize our physical attendance sheet into a spreadsheet to track attendance at family events over time, by grade level, and more. I distill the feedback into a document to distribute back to the school leaders, and review at our FEC meeting to inform planning of the next event.

(45 mintutes) Just as we’re telling the story of this initiative on a large-scale through video, we also work to tell the story of this initiative day-to-day through our SchermCo social channels. We document the work across Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and Facebook.

(1 hour) Next week, another partner school has an event. We’ve established a system to order materials to ensure they’re ordered efficiently and on time. I work with our director of operations to get these ordered and communicate updates back to the teachers.

(1.5 hours) As we do this work, we continue to keep a pulse on what other thought leaders are doing across the country. We’ve made it a team practice to reserve time every week to “sharpen the saw.” This often come in the form of participating in webinars, which provides a chance to gather insight on what is working elsewhere, and ask questions that I’ve been bumping into. Today we’re learning with NAFSCE.


(45 minutes) Every Friday, we send a weekly email to the FEC members from both partner schools to communicate important events for the upcoming week, relevant documents and links (related articles, events), and share about the work across schools.

(1.5 hours) Based on feedback from families, we’re working on making the family empowerment events more inclusive to families that have schedules that prohibit them from attending the night of. In an effort to reach more families, I’ve started recapping family night happenings through a newsletter that includes a synopsysis of the academic resources and activities offered, photos, and links to community partners. This is sent over to school leaders to distribute through the school’s digital communication channels.

(2 hours) Podcasting is now part of the job. SchermCo’s recently launched podcast, Square Pizza, is all about making good things about education even better, and we interview leaders both nationally and local to Charlotte. We do our research at SchermCo, so prior to each recording session, I make sure to study up on our guest.

(2 hours) Hard copy RSVPs are distributed to families at least 10 days prior to an event. I design a paper RSVP to distribute to families, a poster, and social media graphic for each partner school to use to promote upcoming events. Before the design is finalized, I send it over to my “design eye” at the partner school for feedback. When the design is complete , I shoot it to a teammate for Spanish translation.

One week down. A lot more to do. A lot more to come. If you’re interested in learning more about this initiative, see our Family Empowerment ToolKit.

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