School leadership matters: Spotlight on Principal Sabrina Session-Jones
Principal Session-Jones is one of the School Leadership Fellows JPEF supports with coaching and grant funding.
Sabrina Session-Jones was selected as a John Delaney Family and Community Engagement School Leadership Fellow. She has served as a principal for 13 years and is the proud principal of Biltmore Elementary School. She is a dedicated, results-oriented leader with a strong commitment to high academic standards for all children. She understands that children benefit most when the adults in their lives have a shared vision for the child’s success.
Principal Session-Jones and the Biltmore staff have decided to prioritize family and community engagement as they lead in tough times and develop the skills and insights that are needed to ensure families have access to valuable information and resources that are needed to support student learning and have their needs met during uncertain times.
She recently spoke to JPEF’s Board of Directors about her experience, and shared the following.
Why did you select the John Delaney Fellowship to support your school improvement work?
I selected parent engagement because our 5Essentials Survey indicated that was an area in need of improvement. I saw this as an excellent opportunity to implement strategies that we may not have had the funding to implement previously. This gave me the opportunity to learn more about the research behind parental involvement.
How has your experience with JPEF impacted your school improvement work?
It has had a positive impact on my work as a school leader. I really appreciate the involvement in the Summer Residency program. There was lots of excellent professional development and speakers in the areas of teacher retention, climate and culture, equity, family engagement. These are important areas for leaders as we plan for a successful school year.
How do you plan to utilize the JPEF funds?
My project involves training for the parents as well as the teachers. I focused on areas of cultural responsiveness for teachers as well as technology support for parents. What we found is that on top of some parents not having technology at home, sometimes they don’t know how to utilize the technology. We’ve had a lot of virtual engagement events.
Most recently we used a survey to get a better understanding of what barriers exist with parents as it relates to engagement with the school.
Can you tell us about how you collected feedback ?
For a survey, the easiest way to access parents is by meeting them in the car loop. Dr. Parrott assisted with that. We met them at the car loop and engaged them in the survey. They were happy to complete it, then received a travel mug in return for their time. The most important thing was the information.
We might think that we know, but we don't actually know until we ask the parents and get their input. We wanted to know how we could increase communication with the parents, stay connected with them during the pandemic, and what are their needs.
Questions ranged from things like
Do you have a computer at home?
Do you have internet access at home?
What is the most convenient time for us to host parent engagement activities at the school?
The feedback has been great and we hope to get back valuable information. We may have to make adjustments based on the results. There are times that parents indicated that we are not offering parental sessions. I never thought that parents were wanting activities midday, but it is something that we will offer as a result of the survey.
Can you tell me about what you have planned next?
We have an event coming up that is a STEM night, so we purchased STEM activity kits. Normally we would have this at the school but can't due to the pandemic. We still want to engage with parents in reading, math, and science so that we can show them ways that they can engage with their children at home.
Students will take home a kit. Parents will work with them to complete the activity, and we’ll lead the families through the experiment online. We want to take every opportunity to engage with parents. We hope that by sending it home and stressing that it’s something that we can do together that parents will want to participate.