Family Liaisons: Partnering and empowering families in Olympia

Screen shot of Zoom meeting featuring the faces of OSD family liaisons

The following article is shared by the Teaching & Learning team

In the Academic & Student Well-Being Recovery Plan, the school board and superintendent prioritized efforts to support student recovery through partnership with families (pages 6-8). At the elementary level, the restructure of the Teaching & Learning (T&L) team involved coordinated supports for rolling out T&L Family Liaison Services at our 11 elementary schools through recruitment, hiring, onboarding and support.

Family liaisons are grounding themselves through development of a Family Partnership Framework, while simultaneously partnering in service of students and families across Olympia.

Equity at the Center: Developing a Framework for Partnership

Our family liaisons aim to facilitate a full and equitable partnership among families, educators, community partners and other stakeholders in support of all students’ development in academic success, socioemotional well-being, and college and career readiness.

Family liaisons practice working with families, not for families. To ensure sustainability with this approach, family liaisons are establishing an OSD Family Partnership informed by the voices of families, students and other stakeholders to truly adhere to equitable practices.

Our framework, which is in development, is grounded in the 2021 OSPI Family Engagement Framework and guided by the intentional data collection of voices from families.

Examples of Aligned Efforts in Fall 2021

Holiday Support for 343 Families
Our family liaisons partnered with Together!, Honda of Olympia and local Rotary Clubs to acquire and distribute “Food and Turkey Baskets” for our families before Thanksgiving, and throughout December.

Pandemic Support and Relief
School staff shared with family liaisons that support is needed for students and families worried about coming back to in-person learning due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In turn, T&L family liaisons continue to collaborate with front office and nursing staff at their school to identify families and needs. Examples of supports: delivering food bags and homework packets, providing resources for other food delivery options, connecting families with community services, and problem-solving barriers that come along with being quarantined.

Family liaisons also support in elementary classrooms, hallways and lunchrooms, and on playgrounds, to build relationships with students as part of healthy family partnership efforts.

Basic Needs
As each family liaison has gradually found their place within their school, they all noticed a common theme of families seeking access to basic needs including physical/mental healthcare, food access, affordable housing, etc. T&L Family Liaison Services partners with the Student Support department to align efforts with Together! and support families in accessing McKinney-Vento supports.

Supervision of Family Liaison Services

Supervision of Family Liaison Services falls under Char Franz, director of whole child success, who reports to Chief Academic Officer (CAO) Hannah Gbenro. Family liaisons are directly supported by Marisha McDowell, family & community partnership coordinator, who reports to Director Franz. All family liaisons are site-based at each of the 11 elementary schools the T&L Team was assigned to partner with to initially establish this service model.