Why it’s Time to Stop Using Social Media in the Classroom

With the number of teachers and school administrators that have increasingly embraced social media as a way to better connect with parents and families, we must address why it’s time to STOP using social media in the classroom.

Problem 1: App Overload

The first problem goes back to the idea of families becoming disengaged through what we refer to as “App Overload.” For schools to continually inform, involve, and engage families, there needs to be open lines of communication among teachers, families and administrators. But if one teacher is on Instagram, and the next is on Facebook, and the school administration uses Twitter, it can be harder than ever for parents to keep up with the latest news.

It’s also easy for important messages to be lost amid all of the photos and status updates (not to mention the different formulas that determine what information a user sees). While private accounts and groups can work, managing who is requesting access and who sees the information year to year can be a hassle.

Disparate apps and social networks make it especially hard for parents to find out what they really want to know: how their child is doing. These different social media channels, combined with different apps, pages, emails and websites can ironically end up fracturing the K-12 community, rather than bringing it together.

Problem 2: Privacy

The second problem revolves around the privacy of social media, and complying with privacy regulations at the local, state, and federal levels. Knowing whether your school or district has policies around social media use and how to comply with them is important. Social media usage in the classroom has the ability to clash with both FERPA and Copyright Compliance. Educators should be aware of FERPA policies, and what they can and cannot share in posts and photos (did you know that student handwriting is personally identifiable information?). A teacher posting public photos of students working on classroom projects has good intentions, but can pose certain liabilities if it’s not carefully reviewed.

Additionally, social media limits the oversight of schools and districts. When teachers are using a number of different social accounts, tools and apps, it makes it difficult for school and district administrators to stay involved in the communication streams. It also doesn’t give schools or districts the ability to see actual data and report on the levels of engagement within each classroom. These analytics would certainly make it easier to find break-downs in communication before a family becomes disengaged.

Solution: One Private K-12 Solution

To be clear, social media should absolutely be used on the school and district levels for the purpose of PR and Community Outreach/Engagement. This is an important tool for engaging the outer community. However, educators should be using a classroom-only tool to safely share information about their students with families.

Parents should have one place to look for everything they need to know about their children’s education, not five places to look for bits and pieces of information. That’s why K-12 school districts need a unified communications solution that gives parents the equivalent of a front row seat or a window into the classroom.

So when evaluating a solution that you can use to engage with families, consider the following:

It should connect educators, schools, and the district together in a private and secure space (one that is FERPA compliant at minimum).

It should allow for two-way communication on every post (regardless of whether it’s a message, announcement, media file, or an event) so that families can respond, coordinate, and know what is happening every day with their children.

It should allow educators to post messages that allow families to truly understand daily events and reinforce learning at home.

It should have one central, shared calendar so that families can easily find out what’s coming up in the classroom, at the school, and in the district.

It should be capable of translating posts within the platform or network, as well as the notifications that go out to families.

 

DOWNLOAD OUR FREE GUIDE
“App Overload: Why K-12 School Districts, Parents, and Teachers Need a Better Way to Engage”

for more information on the capabilities that an engagement platform should have, and the best practices to successfully implement an integrated platform.

Livingtree Hires Leading Expert in Family Engagement and Former Acting State Superintendent of Virginia: Dr. Steve Constantino

As the leading engagement platform provider for K-12 schools, we are excited to announce the hiring of the nation’s leading expert in family engagement and former Acting Virginia State Superintendent, Dr. Steve Constantino who joins Livingtree after an esteemed career in the K-12 education space.

“Through the Engage Platform, Livingtree is shaping how teachers and parents communicate in school districts across the country,” said Gary Hensley , CEO of Livingtree. “Adding Dr. Constantino’s breadth of expertise to the Livingtree team will give parents and teachers the tools they need to be actively engaged in the academic lives of their children.”

Dr. Constantino has dedicated his career to sharing with audiences around the world the importance of engaging all families. As a result of his experiences and his practical approach to engaging families, Steve has authored four books on the subject. His first book, Making Your School Family Friendly (NASSP, 2002) was published after being selected by the National Association of Secondary School Principals and the MetLife Foundation to create the first-ever family friendly schools workshop, held in Washington DC.  His second book Engaging Every Family (Rowman and Littlefield, 2003) soon followed. This book expanded on the conceptual framework of the four domains of family engagement. In 2008, Steve released his third book 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement (Engage Press, 2008). Steve’s fourth and newest book, Engage Every Family: Five Simple Principles is published by Corwin (2016) and quickly became a bestseller.

As the SVP of Strategic Accounts, Dr. Constantino will direct the focus of our training, implementation and sales team as we strive to meet the needs of every family and school district.

“I am thrilled to be joining the LivingTree team. I am impressed with LivingTree, their visionary CEO Gary Hensley, their product and their heartfelt commitment to family engagement. They are changing the face of family engagement and I am so very pleased to be part of this fantastic journey. I am excited to roll up my sleeves and get to work on ensuring every family has the opportunity to be engaged with their children’s learning through advanced, state of the art technology. This truly is Family Engagement 2.0!”

Dr. Constantino began his career as a teacher and moved through the ranks to award-winning principal and school district superintendent. At the State level, Steve served first as Chief Academic Officer and was then appointed to Acting State Superintendent by former Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe. Today, Steve continues to accept numerous invitations to speak and consult with schools, districts and educational organizations around the world and is also an adjunct lecturer at the School of Education, College of William and Mary where he teaches doctoral level classes in executive organizational leadership and planning and evaluation.

Photo by Kelly J Mihalcoe

LivingTree Education Sessions!

We’re thrilled to announce our participation in upcoming conference sessions. We’re sharing best practices and frameworks based on millions of conversations and points of engagement. The focus of these sessions will be using technology to create positive and inclusive environments. We hope you’ll join us in these important discussions!

Pennsylvania Family Involvement Conference – Harrisburg, PA

Engaging the WHOLE Community with Technology – Monday, 10/16 –  2:45-4:00 – Ballroom D

Texas Statewide Parent Involvement Conference – Houston, TX

Using Technology to Develop a Culture of Positivity – Saturday,12/2 – 8:30–9:45 – Alamo 2

National Title I Conference – Philadelphia, PA

Using Technology to Develop a Culture of Positivity – Thursday, 2/8 – 11:30-12:00 – Room A

National School Board Association Conference – San Antonio, TX

Closing The Engagement Gap – Using Technology to Build Trust and Partnership – Monday, 4/9 –  8:30-9:45

If you’re not attending the conferences but are interested in scheduling a webinar session for your school or district, contact us at info@livingtree.com.

 

 

 

Hurricane Relief

When Hurricane Harvey came ashore August 25, 2017, an estimated $180 Billion in damage across 300 miles resulted. The damage included 200,000 homes and over 300 schools. As the school year progresses and the initial and incredible rush of support depletes, there are still many educators and families in need. Many students have lost everything and are trying to start a new school year with no supplies and limited clothing. This is near and dear to our hearts as many of these school communities have been part of our LivingTree family for years. At this point in time, these communities are asking for gift cards and/or funds to help students in need return to a sense of normalcy. Allowing these students to purchase uniforms, choose their own backpack, and select school supplies will help them return to the classroom ready for the year. A few communities have shared their needs with us. Please see below for requests and more details.

Crosby ISD  – Crosby ISD has a few unwanted distinctions from Hurricane Harvey including the highest rainfall ever recorded for a storm – 55”. They also had the ARKEMA plant where evacuations occurred due to chemical explosions. 51 student families and 9 staff members were severely impacted by Hurricane Harvey – many have lost everything they own. The district has been able to help with food and is beginning to address clothing needs. However, they still have students existing without roofs or beds (tents). They’re working to pair each family with a sponsor – the need is that great. Contact: Karen Walthall, Principal – kwalthall@crosbyisd.org

Calallen ISD – Calallen ISD is in Corpus Christi, TX close to where Hurricane Harvey first came ashore. Calallen has had an influx of new students who lost everything in the storm. These students are in need of uniforms and supplies. Calallen ISD has requested Wal-Mart gift cards in $25 increments to provide to families as children come back to school. The local Wal-Mart carries uniforms and supplies needed by these students. Please send the gift cards to the address below:

Attn: Annie Swetish-Rivera
Administration Building
4205 Wildcat Drive
Corpus Christi, TX 78410

Port Aransas ISD – Port Aransas had damage to the majority of homes and structures. They’re looking for gift cards and funds to help students return to school. Donations can be made directly to the district:

Meghan Zigmond
zigmond@paisd.net
100 S. Station Street
Port Aransas, TX 78373

Houston ISD – Houston ISD had 200 school facilities sustain damage from Hurricane Harvey. As some students were welcomed back to school September 11, 2017, many facilities were still inoperable. HISD has asked for funds to be donated centrally at: http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/164281

Mandarin Immersion School – The Mandarin Immersion School is part of Houston ISD and has many families who lost everything in the Houston flooding. They have set up a fund to provide these families support for clothing and supplies as families wait for up to two months to work with insurance adjusters to chart a path forward. Donate here: Youcaring.com/MIMS

Horn Elementary – Horn Elementary is located in Houston ISD with many families impacted by Hurricane Harvey flooding. Their Parent Teacher Organization is distributing funds to families in need to purchase clothing and supplies: http://hornpto.org/sunshine-fund/

Msgr. Kelly Catholic HS – Msgr. Kelly Catholic HS in Beaumont, TX is a co-ed school of 440 students.  The school sustained water damage in nearly every classroom resulting in all the carpeting and floor tile being removed. The school has 6-8 staff and about 25 students/families who sustained significant flood damage to their homes. They’re seeking financial assistance in the form of money or gift cards to help families rebuild. Contact: Roger Bemis, Principal – rbemis@mkchs.com

Katy ISD – 75% of Katy, TX flooded during Hurricane Harvey. 15,007 students and 2,600 employees of Katy ISD are recovering from direct impact of the storm. Funds are needed to rebuild schools (16 flooded campuses) and immediately to help families with clothing and supplies. Donate here: http://tinyurl.com/pledgecentskatyisdfamilies

Diocese of Beaumont – Diocese of Beaumont is a mission Diocese with five schools. The high school and two schools PK3 – grade 8 had floodwater. About 50 staff members lost everything to flooding along with 130+ families. They have removed floors and wet walls, abated asbestos, sanitized and cleaned everything. It’s not pretty, but they’ve worked hard for students to return to school the week of 9/12. Many of their families still need significant financial help. Contact: Marcia Stevens, Superintendent of Catholic Schools –mstevens@dioceseofbmt.org

As we work together to support communities in need, please let us know if Hurricanes Harvey or Irma impacted your school community and you have specific needs by emailing info@livingtree.com. We share specific needs on our public social media channels – Facebook and Twitter. Thank you!

New Year – New Opportunity

Unsharpened pencils, fingerprint free devices, clean notebooks, perfect crayons, unused erasers, clean desks, new class decorations – ahhh, the sights and smells of a new school year. It’s hard to believe a new one is already upon us. As a parent, I have the typical worries about what new teachers and a new school year will bring. Will the class be a good fit for my child? Will he stay on track in all his subjects? Will he continue to love learning? Will he make new friends? What can I do to make sure all of these things are ok? So many questions at the start of a new year….  It’s a time when parents are eager to begin anew and a perfect opportunity for schools and teachers to set a pattern for engagement that will positively impact campus culture and student achievement. Based on our work with educators around the globe, the LivingTree team has put together a quick list of best practices for building on the positive energy of a new school year. Here’s to taking family engagement to the next level in 2017-18!

  1. Be consistent! – Let families know what method you will be using for the year and stick with it. Communicate regularly for best results.
  2. Establish your class rules for communication – Let families know how to reach you and an expected response time. Most families are fine with not reaching out past a certain of day, waiting for an expected period, or using your preferred medium. They just want to know what to expect and how to engage!
  3. Set your calendar in the first week – include important dates and assignments. – Whew! We’re all busy these days – knowing what’s coming and having reminders if you’re using technology that does that can make the difference in a family checking out vs. being your partner.
  4. Share pictures the first week to build trust / openness – A picture is worth more than 1000 words. Pictures show us that the children are learning and happy. Families see the work you put into developing children and respond positively.
  5. Share pictures of important forms/slips that need to be signed/returned – Want a particular paper form returned quickly? Share a picture of it and let families know why! You’ll be amazed at the responsiveness!
  6. Share positive comments and accomplishments at the end of a good day – Nothing helps students and families more than knowing what’s going well. Students are super proud when families congratulate them for something done at school. The conversation goes from “I did nothing” to “YES! I did that!!!”
  7. Utilize your support resources if you’re having trouble – If you’ve chosen a technology or program for engagement, be sure to familiarize yourself with support resources. At LivingTree, we are available at support@livingtree.com or www.support.livingtree.com to make sure all users are connected and engaging.
  8. Teach your families – Using pbl? Let families know that that means with simple terms…define it, share the benefits, let them know what to expect. Families want to engage, but they don’t want to feel stupid! Helping families understand some of the changes to education methods is exciting. They love to know they’re children are getting a first rate education!
  9. Suggest questions for families to use with their students – Having families reinforce your teaching and stimulate additional conversation creates a true network of learning. We hear from families all the time that they want to help but don’t know where to start or what to ask.
  10.   Tips on helping with homework – Want families to help in certain ways? Let them know. Share web links or videos, give simple suggestions. Taking 5-15 minutes to guide families can make a significant difference in the amount and quality of work completed!

BONUS: Want families to download an app (like LivingTree 🙂), accept an invite, etc? Do a homework pass, free dress day, family recognition wall, or something that pairs students and families in connecting with your classroom. Students will help you connect their families if there’s something fun in it for them! Be sure to follow the consistency and media sharing suggestions to keep them engaged!

LivingTree Announces Attendance Alert Capability

LivingTree, a private social network for PK-12 family engagement, today announced the availability of attendance alerts, a new feature of its engagement platform. School and district administrators can now use LivingTree to quickly and easily share attendance alerts with families, extending the solution’s ability to build meaningful connections and accelerate student achievement.

With LivingTree’s new attendance alert capability, all home communications can be delivered via the LivingTree platform. Voice messages are delivered to a parent’s phone number of choice with opt in and opt out functionality in place, per FCC regulation. Additionally, the attendance alert is delivered via email and mobile push notification. Attendance alerts add capability to the phone, texting, multimedia, private messaging, and two way conversation features LivingTree has delivered to schools around the globe.

“An estimated 5 million to 7.5 million U.S. students miss nearly a month of school each year. This represents 10-15% of students in K-12 in the U.S. Absenteeism is a leading indicator that students will ultimately drop out of school. With the addition of attendance alerts to the LivingTree platform, we’re working to build deep partnership between schools and families to reduce this rate,” said LivingTree CEO Joni Carswell. “By consolidating all communication and engagement needs in a single place, administrators can easily connect with families through a platform they know and trust, building partnership to positively impact student achievement.”

School administrators can send attendance alerts quickly and easily, utilizing LivingTree’s data system integration. Based on parent preferences, attendance alerts are delivered to recipients as an email notification, mobile notification (for mobile app users), and/or a phone call — becoming a voicemail if there is no answer. With voice translation to 26 languages and text translation to more than 100 languages, recipients receive the call or message in their preferred language.

Working closely with customers on the design of the attendance alert feature, LivingTree has taken attendance alerts beyond a simple phone call or email. Messages will automatically show in the LivingTree inbox with the option to reply with absence excuses or questions. This further addresses the U.S. Every Student Succeeds Act mandate for two way conversation in native language.

The addition of attendance alerts extend the robust capabilities that LivingTree delivers to schools and parents. Features include SMS texting, the ability to connect into broader school, district, and community networks, enhanced media sharing, private messaging, directory, and analytic reporting. Parents within participating LivingTree schools can share media and announcements, send and receive private direct messages, access directory listings, volunteer for school activities and keep in touch with their children’s teachers.

Since 2012, LivingTree has been working with leading school districts, innovative schools and savvy teachers across the country to build Tiered Social Networks that enable conversations to flow up, down and across the education community. Designed by parents for parents, LivingTree’s one mission is unite educators and families by providing a private, safe and secure platform to facilitate easier and more organic conversations.

LivingTree was recently honored by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, receiving the 2016 Gold Stevie Award for Community Involvement Program of the Year, and the Silver Stevie Award for the Smartphone App of the Year.

To learn more about how your district, school or classroom can get access to LivingTree, visit www.livingtree.com or call toll-free, 844-548-8733.

About LivingTree
Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year. http://www.livingtree.com

LivingTree Announces Third Round of Drako Grant Recipients

LivingTree Announces Third Round of Drako Grant Recipients

One Million Dollar Grant Helps PK-12 Schools Across the Country Deepen Family & Community Engagement via Tiered Social Network®

AUSTIN, TX, June 15, 2017 – LivingTree today announced that it has awarded $500,000 in third round Drako Community and Family Engagement Grants for Schools to districts and campuses throughout the United States. A diverse set of PK-12 school communities representing 27 different states and 80 different districts with varying socio-economic needs were awarded the Drako Grants.

The third round awards bring the total amount awarded to just over $1 million and complete the Drako Grant opportunity announced in April 2017. The grants provide a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social Network® — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

“We’re excited by the number of applicants seeking to change the way families are engaged in their communities,” said Dean Drako, grant benefactor and LivingTree Chairman. “It’s an honor to be part of improving student achievement by working with these committed and passionate educators.”

LivingTree is excited to share the third round recipients.

Third Round Grant Award Recipients Include:

  • Jefferson Parish Public School System – Harvey, LA
  • Sheldon ISD – Houston, TX
  • Sumter County Schools – Americus, GA
  • Narbonne High School – Los Angeles, CA
  • George Washington HS – Danville, VA
  • Hazel Crest School District 152.5 – Hazel Crest, IL
  • PS 114X Luis Llorens Torres Children’s Academy – New York, NY
  • Monte Alto ISD – Monte Alto, TX
  • Harding Middle School – Des Moines, IA
  • Crosspointe Elementary – Boynton Beach, FL
  • PS1X -The Courtlandt School – Bronx, NY
  • The Varnett Public Charter School – Houston, TX
  • Brentwood Middle School – Greeley, CO
  • Jersey City Community Charter School – Jersey City, NJ
  • Noel Community Arts School – Denver, CO
  • Margaret G. Scotten Elementary – Grass Valley, CA
  • Hilliard A Willbanks Middle School – Demorest, GA
  • Highland View Elementary – Bristol, VA
  • Blessed Sacrament Catholic School – Denver, CO
  • Bay Springs Elementary – Bay Springs, MS
  • Cornerstone Schools – Jacksonville, FL
  • Antioch Unified School District – Antioch, CA
  • North Main Street School – Pleasantville, NJ
  • Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia – Wynnewood, PA
  • Carrizo Springs Junior High – Carrizo Spgs, TX
  • St. Luke Catholic Elementary School – Stockton, CA
  • Dillon Christian School – Dillon, SC
  • Chicago Tech High School – Chicago, IL
  • Rockdale Academy – Cincinnati, OH
  • Cardinal Ohara HS – Tonawanda, NY
  • Robert F. Munroe Day School – Quincy, FL
  • Wallingford Family YMCA – Wallingford, CT
  • Nash Primary School – Weymouth, MA
  • St. John School – San Francisco, CA
  • Walker Memorial Academy – Avond Park, FL
  • Bridgeport Elementary – Bridgeport, AL
  • District 75 – Manhattan School for Career Development – New York, NY
  • St. Mary of Carmel Catholic School – Dallas, TX
  • Nespelem School – Nespelem, WA
  • Harvest Christian Academy – Wilmington, DE
  • St. Edward Catholic School – Minneota, MN
  • Passport Achievement Learning Center – South Holland, IL

“The Grant program has been a joy to share,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “At LivingTree, we’re inspired by the passion and commitment shown by educators in sharing their desire to partner with families and communities for better student outcomes.”

Third Round Award Recipients Share Engagement Goals

Torah Academy of Greater Philadelphia, Rachel Mazurek, Director of Communications and Community Relations:

“We believe that if we had a more accessible means of communicating with our parent body, it could improve our school tremendously. Parent contact is of utmost importance and there are so many ways Living Tree would help us expand and engage our parent body. We believe parents would become more active partners in their children’s education if they had more means of communication and had a greater knowledge of what actually happens in school. Also, we would use it to connect parents to one another and help parents get to know the other parents in their children’s classes and more broadly in the school, creating a better sense of community.”

Encinal Elementary, Menlo Park City School District, Jennifer Kollman, Principal:

“We have a huge need to directly increase the level of parent engagement for our English Learner families. We have set an audacious goal to reduce the number of LTELS in our district to zero in four years. We would be able to use Living Tree to completely engage our EL families in understanding and helping them to navigate the complexities of school, opportunities, announcements, etc. in their own language.”

Jefferson Parish Public School System, Christie Gomez, Director of Community Engagement:

“We will use LivingTree as a singular stop for district and school information. Making the effort to involve all parents by reaching out to them in their native languages and letting them know that we want them to participate will be amazing. Many of the families in our district choose not to use Facebook because it is public, so it’s difficult to engage those parents. LivingTree being private can eliminate some of their privacy concerns making them reachable in an informational as well as social context with two way dialogue.”

Sheldon ISD, Dr. Brenda Dearmon, Director of Federal Programs and Grants:

“LivingTree will be used to offer a communication tool that will inform parents and families of programs and events occurring on each campus and within the district. This will produce positive results, especially for campuses at the secondary level. We will also utilize LivingTree to facilitate a two-way dialogue between parent and school that will assist in establishing effective family – school partnerships.”

Wallingford Family YMCA, Cassandra Allen, Youth Support Specialist:

“With LivingTree we would be able to connect all of our families to not just the program and the staff that they see every day, but with the YMCA as a whole. With greater parent involvement, we would be able to make these programs even better and would be able to showcase exactly what the YMCA does each and every day.”

About the Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant

The Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools awards schools and districts with a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social Network® — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year. School grant recipients are those with a stated plan and need for using technology to engage families and communities. Eligible schools include accredited private and public schools in the United States: pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

About LivingTree

Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year.  For more information, visit http://www.livingtree.com, call 844.LIV.TREE, or email at: info@livingtree.com

LivingTree Announces Second Round of Drako Grant Recipients

LivingTree Announces Second Round of Drako Grant Recipients

One Million Dollar Grant Helps PK-12 Schools Across the Country Deepen Family & Community Engagement via Tiered Social Network®

AUSTIN, TX, May 22, 2017 – LivingTree today announced that it has awarded $250,000 in second round Drako Community and Family Engagement Grants for Schools to districts and campuses throughout the United States. A diverse set of PK-12 school communities representing 11 different states and varying socio-economic needs were awarded the second round Drako Grants. The grants provide a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social Network® — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

The second round awards represent 25% of the Drako Grant total set at $1 Million as announced in April 2017. The first round of awards announced in early May also represented 25% of the Grant total. Schools and districts that wish to apply for the remaining $500,000 have until June 1st, 2017.

“The number and quality of applications demonstrates the need for technology in engaging families,” said Dean Drako, grant benefactor and LivingTree Chairman. “It’s an honor to work with the diverse group of schools and districts pursuing family engagement initiatives to improve student achievement.”

LivingTree is excited to share the second round recipients.

Second Round Grant Award Recipients Include:

  • Leander ISD – Austin, TX
  • New York Public Schools District 13/17 – Brooklyn, NY
  • La Joya ISD – La Joya, TX
  • Cobalt Institute of Math and Science – Victorville, CA
  • McIntosh Elementary School – McIntosh, AL
  • AKTIV Learning Academy – Virginia Gardens, FL
  • Grace Christian Academy – Port St. Lucie, FL
  • Willingboro High School – Making Visions Possible Program – Willingboro, NJ
  • Foster Elementary PTO – Hingham, MA
  • John J. Pershing I.S. 220 – Brooklyn, NY

“The excitement shown by the applicants from across the United States is contagious,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “The LivingTree team is enjoying working with round one winners on their plans for next year and thrilled to begin planning with the round two recipients.”

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

Second Round Award Recipients Share Engagement Goals

Leander ISD, Shannon Lombardo, Community Services Director:

“Currently, campuses have a variety of resources they are using to attempt to communicate with their families: campus newsletters, teacher emails and district emails as well as all of the social media outlets. We are interested in seeing the impact if we streamlined all engagement to LivingTree.”

NYC Public Schools District 13/17, Pamela Payne, Family Leadership Coordinator:

“I have been working for almost 12 years as a parent advocate. Parents need leadership, guidance and ongoing support to deal with the many issues they face. Our faith-based program will partner with the local school community and assist them in planning specifically toward building parent knowledge in academics for their children with a university as our partner. We will also partner with local officials to address parent school concerns as needed.”

Willingboro High School – Making Visions Possible, Gary Nelson, Director:

“We plan to utilize LivingTree to show families a positive narrative of student success at Willingboro High School. Our goals are to create a school community that is heavily involved in the external community and to consolidate all of our resources into an easily accessible, private platform.”

AKTIV Learning Academy, Maribel Alvarez, School Director:

“We plan to utilize LivingTree for family engagement by integrating it into the school’s day to day duties that will keep our parents consistently informed such as: school events, school calendar, documents and links to learning tools for students. We believe it will make communication more accessible and look forward to communication improving for both the parents and the school.”

Cobalt Institute of Math and Science, Veronica Hill, Family Engagement Liaison:

“Family engagement is a huge priority at our school; LivingTree will be a great benefit to us. We are a Title 1 school and have found that the more engaged and informed parents are, the more likely students will do well in their studies.”

La Joya ISD, Velma Ochoa, Family and Community Engagement Coordinator:

“I am looking forward to using technology best practices when working with our families and community. Our entire academic community will benefit greatly from LivingTree. Our students and families are eager for progress.”

About the Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant

The Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools awards schools and districts with a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social Network® — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

School grant recipients are those with a stated plan and need for using technology to engage families and communities. Eligible schools include accredited private and public schools in the United States: pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

About LivingTree

Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year.  For more information, visit http://www.livingtree.com, call 844.LIV.TREE, or email at: info@livingtree.com

Nurture International School – “Go For It!”

Dr. Stella Pandhare, Principal of Nurture International School, says “Go for It”

Nurture International School is in their second year using LivingTree. During this school year alone, Nurture International has shared 5600 posts, 440 files, 160 events, and 4800 photos. They are realizing their vision of building a strong and vibrant community. Dr. Stella Pandhare shares more of her school’s story below.

Describe your parent engagement strategy and methodology prior to LivingTree. Prior to LivingTree we used conventional methods such as sending printed newsletters to parents.

Why did you decide to use a new method or tool for parent engagement? We wanted to build a strong and vibrant community in our school. Schooling does not happen in a vacuum. We deal with parents, children, and teachers day in and day out. We deal with their emotions and apprehensions. Every stake holder of the school needs to be on the same page for the child to benefit the most. Our relationship with the parents is very important for us to help the child in the right manner. We were looking for an elegant and scalable technology platform for our solution. After much careful consideration, we adopted a new innovative social communication platform called LivingTree.

What are some of the positive outcomes your school has identified with LivingTree? LivingTree has united all parents, students, and staff and created a vibrant, engaged community with a true sense of togetherness. It has enabled us to provide transparent, on-time communications to parents and allows feedback on all school related activities and information. Information is easily accessible to parents on the web, iPhone and Android devices. Parents are “always connected” to the school and the staff is easily accessible to the parents. The staff is aware of parent concerns and can take immediate measures. Daily activities in the class are captured by the teacher and shared with the parents. Teachers share lessons plans, special activities, and notes with parents and students.

What LivingTree feature is most useful to your staff? Creating events.

How do you encourage teachers who are hesitant to use LivingTree for engagement? We ensure that all teachers are brought together on the platform. To accomplish this, the school senior staff collaborates with all staff to create awareness about the initiative at all levels. We discuss how LivingTree can eliminate clerical work and create a good rapport between the school and the community.

What would you do if LivingTree went away? It would leave us significantly handicapped.

What one thing would you say about LivingTree to others? LivingTree can help bridge communication gaps and bring your community closer. It is a secure platform for positive communication. It will increase parent involvement in school wide activities. So, go for it!

LivingTree Announces First Round of Drako Grant Recipients

LivingTree Announces First Round of Drako Grant Recipients

One Million Dollar Grant Helps PK-12 Schools Across the Country Deepen Family & Community Engagement via Tiered Social NetworkR

AUSTIN, TX, May 3, 2017 – LivingTree today announced that it has awarded $250,000 in first round Drako Community and Family Engagement Grants for Schools to districts and campuses throughout the United States. A diverse set of PK-12 school communities representing 11 different states and varying socio-economic needs were awarded the first round Drako Grants. The grants provide a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

The first round awards represent 25% of the Drako Grant total set at $1 Million as announced in April 2017. Due to the strength and volume of applications, awards are being made in rounds. Early grant recipients have the opportunity to immediately begin implementation planning towards goals shared on their applications.

“It’s a true honor to help schools create family and community partnerships that will positively impact student achievement,” said Dean Drako, grant benefactor and LivingTree Chairman. “The variety of the schools that have applied demonstrates that family engagement is a universal objective regardless of the location, environment, or grade level.”

LivingTree is excited to share the first round recipients.

First Round Grant Award Recipients

  • St. Lucie Public Schools – Fort Pierce, FL
  • Union County Public Schools – Monroe, NC
  • Alexander City Schools – Alexander, AL
  • Crockett County C.C.S.D. – Ozona, TX
  • Southwest ISD – San Antonio, TX
  • Jacksonville City Schools – Jacksonville, AL
  • Edward Bleeker JHS 185 – Flushing, NY
  • Firelands Montessori Academy – Huron, OH
  • New Caney ISD – New Caney, TX
  • Holy Name Central Catholic Jr/Sr High School – Worcester, MA
  • Newberry Academy – Newberry, SC
  • South Clearfield Elementary School – Clearfield, UT
  • St Martin High School – St. Martin, MS
  • Sweetwater Elementary – Douglasville, GA
  • Waiahole Elementary School – Kaneohe, HI

“We’re thrilled to partner with a group of school leaders devoted to building trust and achievement within their communities,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “Many applicants shared their desire to consolidate engagement efforts into a single platform and reach all families using translation and mobile. The LivingTree team is ready and enthusiastic to help these schools realize their vision.”

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

Initial Award Recipients Share Engagement Goals

St. Lucie Public Schools, Kimberly Roberts, Program Manager:

“Living Tree will help us improve communication between the school and families by sharing options and ideas. Living Tree will provide support and ideas that will engage family and community members. The professional development LivingTree offers will help us improve our relationships between the school and families which in turn will help us build a stronger overall community to support our young in their education. Schools need to build bridges with our families and community that will last. We will engage families – not just involve them for today.”

Waiahole Elementary School, Alexandra Obra, Principal:

“We will communicate with families on a daily basis! Next school year, our focus is on the relationship between the school and home. We want to engage our families in their child’s learning. We would like to have all of our information in one spot so that families don’t have to look all over the place. We also want to make sure that our families have access to the information and can see what their child’s day looks like, as well as highlight what is taking place on our campus.”

Crockett County C.C.S.D, Janina Savala, Federal Programs:

“Living Tree will offer the two-way communication for all students in our district. Currently, most of our communication is one-way through the use of newsletters and notes that are sent home on a weekly basis. Having two-way communication will impact our school community positively by encouraging the parent to ask the teacher questions about concerns. Creating a platform where parents can talk to each other and to school staff and resolve differences early on will be a great benefit.”

Union County Public Schools, Tahira Stalberte, Chief Communications Officer:

“Living Tree has several features that will be extremely beneficial to UCPS and its families. We will use it provide ongoing communication with families, invite feedback and open doors for engaging with families in a non-traditional setting. LivingTree will provide a new and organized platform that can increase parent involvement in UCPS.”

Southwest ISD, Marie Cathryn Phelps, Student & Outreach Services:

“It is our sincere belief that families want to be connected to their children’s school community just as much as we want to be connected to them. We will utilize LivingTree as a district community…I literally picture a tree as a symbol of the district, strong and steadfast, reaching out to provide support, shade, or fruit to its stakeholders, and in this process, we will build and grow relationships where we will be connected and intertwined as we educate and grow our students. I believe that LivingTree will be a very powerful tool as we develop and grow a district wide family and community engagement initiative, that..can be a sustainable part of the community for generations to come.”

About the Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant

The Drako Community and Family Engagement Grant for Schools awards schools and districts with a private, secure LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR — including all engagement features, SIS integration, setup, upkeep, training, and support — at no cost for one year.

School grant recipients are those with a stated plan and need for using technology to engage families and communities. Eligible schools include accredited private and public schools in the United States: pre-schools, elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools.

To learn more and apply for the grant, please visit: Drako Family Engagement Grant.

About LivingTree

Founded in 2012, LivingTree’s mission is to connect the people who raise, develop, and educate our children. LivingTree aims to include every member of the community regardless of preferred language or socio-economic status. LivingTree’s Tiered Social Network® empowers leaders, organizations, educators and parents to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private network to help improve academic achievement. LivingTree has been recognized for this work by the Stevie® Awards for Women in Business as the 2016 Gold Community Involvement Program of the Year and 2016 Silver Smartphone App of the Year.  For more information, visit http://www.livingtree.com, call 844.LIV.TREE, or email at: info@livingtree.com

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