Andrew Campanella: As a charter school, why do you think it is important to promote the work that you do to members of the community? Is it beneficial to your students, teacher, and students’ parents?
Dr. Landon A. Brown, II: The school and the community cannot live apart. It is very important to promote the work that we do so that parents can be fully informed of the innovative things we are doing to enhance the total learning program at Emerson. Additionally, it allows for “our story” to be transparent. If you don’t involve the community in the process, there is no real ownership or accountability.
Andrew Campanella: Your school seems to do a lot to include members of the community. Tell me more about the inspiration behind the Fall Festival and Grandparents Day?
Dr. Landon A. Brown, II: The annual fall festival and Grandparents Day are great examples of how our students and parents to see teachers outside of the normal instructional setting. 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 events help to build the relational capacity of teachers to make an impact. Parents and stakeholders get to see staff members having fun while engaging students in a safe environment. It helps teachers to see students’ interest in other creative settings they can use later to make connections in the academic content areas.
Andrew Campanella: On your website, you talk about focusing on building strong moral character and also preparing students for college. Why do you think these are so important?
Dr. Landon A. Brown, II: Building strong moral character is an important, lifelong skill. Oftentimes schools talk about the importance of moral character, but our moral focus program makes an intentional effort to teach students what it looks like and periodically infuse such themes of respect, gratitude, courage, self-control, wisdom, etc. into the core academic lessons. We also like to inform students that after high school they need to be college, career, or military ready. That means having a good foundation and the K-8 setting is the building block of good study habits and academic performance. Elementary school sets up the framework of successful outcomes. By being college ready, we create a positive trajectory for our students’ future. This is a true statement: The Ohio Department of Corrections predicts the number of jails they will build based on the number of students failing the 3rd grade reading test. This profound finding is significant because it highlights the importance of literacy skills and reiterates the need for high-quality teachers to increase rigor in the classroom setting because today’s students are competing in a global society.
Andrew Campanella: Tell me more about how you celebrate National School Choice Week and why you find it beneficial for your school?
Dr. Landon A. Brown, II: Our company, National Heritage Academies (NHA), celebrates National School Choice Week by highlighting success stories at local schools. For many students, schools of choice represent the last option many families have in… local districts. I celebrate by highlighting positive things Emerson is doing in my weekly newsletter, “Word on the Street.” This newsletter goes out every Sunday and is a way to keep families informed of school happenings. Parents also get a chance to come in for Coffee and Conversation with the Principal so they can feel as though they have a voice. We truly have open communication with our families and that is one element I thrive on as a principal.
Andrew Campanella: What advice would you have for other schools that participate in NSCW. What should schools consider in planning their events?
Dr. Landon A. Brown, II: Keep it simple, and fun! Sometimes, the best planners of such events are the parents and teachers. Take into consideration activities they enjoy. Start on time and end on time. Parents’ time (and teachers) is valuable – adhere to the agenda. No matter if you have 1 person, 10 people, or 100 people always showcase positive energy and present as though you have 1,000! The word always gets out and you will see increased participation based on the behaviors of the leadership team. Of course, refreshments can make any family engagement event better. Moreover, I would highly suggest having some sort of student showcase. When the student performs, the parent will come.