By Lyndsie Kiebert
Reader Staff Writer
When Forrest Bird Charter School foreign language teacher Eric Fulgenzi realized his students were struggling, he felt his teaching was doing them an injustice.
But after consulting with the charter administrator, Mary Jensen, they discovered that the high rates of poverty among students at FBCS were putting the students at a natural disadvantage. With some research, Fulgenzi found Family and Community Engagement — a nationwide initiative to connect students, teachers, parents and community resources.
“I attended and came back with lots of energy, but not a lot of time to start working on getting families involved in our school,” he said. “That’s when Lyndsay (Holland) stepped in and really took the program and began shaping it.”
Lyndsay Holland is a part-time math teacher at FBCS, and now the head of the FACE program.
“The focus this year is to create a welcoming environment in the school,” she said. “We’re trying to be cognizant that, for some people, school wasn’t a good experience.”
Holland said future steps in the FACE program include developing trust between parents and teachers, integrating community members into the school environment and creating easy access to community resources that parents may not have known were available before.
“You can’t raise your child in isolation,” Holland said. “If kids are seeing parents and teachers working together, it changes education.”
And it’s about more than just getting parents to help out around the school, Holland said. She said it’s more about encompassing all of what a family needs.
“This is about more than volunteering. I want to create a relationship with parents that doesn’t have to just be them coming into the school to staple papers,” she said. “This is about creating one link at a time.”
Those links — between the families, teachers and community resources — are what Fulgenzi views as the building blocks of a successful FACE program.
“By getting families in our school, providing them with much-needed services and showing them that everyone at the school is an ally rather than an adversary, we can open doors and new thought patterns that may have never seemed possible,” Fulgenzi said. “After all, no child is an island.”
FBCS is hosting a Family Summit on Thursday, Oct. 26 at 3 p.m. While the event will include parent-teacher conferences for FBCS students, Holland said anyone interested can attend. There will be booths and presentations by community organizations tailored to family needs, including the East Bonner County Library District, North Idaho College, the Idaho Department of Labor, Sandpoint Youth Center, Lillybrooke Family Justice Center and more. Holland said there will be soup for all attendees.
“I want it to be a time of relationship building,” Holland said. “It’s about, ‘What organizations can help, and offer tips so families have ideas of what resources are available, or maybe spark something in the kids?’”
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