HIGHLIGHTING HAPPINESS: Engaging the community all year long

By: Andrew Campanella

Last Upated: April 15, 2021


In Dayton, Ohio, one principal is moving mountains to hear from parents, change students’ futures, and celebrate the little wins of everyday life in his school, Emerson Academy.


Dr. Landon A Brown, II is the principal of Emerson Academy, where family engagement is a key goal of their school. This year is Dr. Brown’s first at the helm of this school and he’s quickly set the tone for the school’s priorities which include a variety of programs and activities to help the school community become an effective team working together to improve students’ lives. Their recent fall festival was a great example of this, as it brought families and students, both currently attending and 

Emerson Academy at LEGO competition! prospective, together to celebrate the school’s successes thus far this year and deepen relationships. At this year’s Fall Festival, they gathered in celebration of fall football weather and exceeding their enrollment goals for the year.

During National School Choice Week, schools around the country are encouraged to show the community what they’re great at, and the importance of doing that doesn’t stop after National School Choice Week. How will parents know to consider a great school near them if they don’t hear what’s great about it? That’s why schools like Emerson Academy are ahead of the curve – they get that celebrating wins isn’t just a treat for the school, but a service to the community.

These types of events aren’t just about entertainment. They also serve two important purposes. First, it’s important to celebrate your school’s successes so that new families can consider attending. Talking about your school’s successes also encourages the families who’ve already selected your school to recommit to contributing to their child’s involvement there.

It goes deeper than that, too. Staff members showed another side of their personality with Dr. Brown demonstrating his skills as a football placekicker and DJ “Tough Puppy” (aka, Technology Director Dexter Bailey) providing the music ambiance. It’s important for the students and parents of Emerson Academy to get to know the leadership and teachers of that school in an informal, fun environment.

Connecting with teachers in this fun environment helps students believe that teachers care deeply about their success. According to Dr. Landon A. Brown, II, “Current research suggests that urban students (particularly minority males) need to see teachers outside of the classroom environment first before they make a connection inside the classroom. That old educational adage is true, ‘Students don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care!’ ” These types of events help students achieve more in the classroom.

It also offers an opportunity to forge bonds between parents and teachers so that they can work as a team toward a student’s academic success. Just like their children, parents need to see how much their school’s teachers and staff cares for the students. These social occasions break the ice and help parents feel comfortable asking questions and giving feedback that makes teachers and school leaders better at their jobs. 

When they’re not planning a fall festival, the staff of Emerson Academy make sure to stay connected through a variety of programs. Dr. Brown sends out a weekly newsletter called “Word on the Street,” keeps families informed, and periodic coffee and conversation with the principal events make sure the conversation isn’t just a one-way street. 

Emerson Academy is a great example of schools embodying year-round the philosophy of National School Choice Week: that highlighting happiness and the good news in education helps everyone, from students to their parents, teachers, school leaders, and larger community.

Read More: Five Questions for Dr. Landon A. Brown, II, Emerson Academy’s principal

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