Dean Drako Acquires LivingTree, a K-12 Family Engagement Company

Drako to Amplify Livingtree Tiered Social Network® Development and Cybersecurity Strength

AUSTIN, TX, November 30, 2016 – Livingtree, a K-12 family engagement platform provider, today announced that Dean Drako, founder and former CEO of cybersecurity firm Barracuda Networks, has acquired the company. Drako’s multi-million dollar investment will accelerate Livingtree’s customer growth and development of its Tiered Social Network®, which provides a secure, community-wide school communication platform for educators and parents to engage – facilitating and improving ongoing communication and student achievement.

“Parent-teacher engagement is vital to student success,” said Dean Drako, LivingTree’s owner and executive chairman. “LivingTree is the strongest platform I’ve found to interactively connect teachers with parents in an organized yet secure way. The fact that LivingTree doubled its user base in the past twelve months and continues to onboard new schools each week demonstrates that they are meeting a critical community need.”

LivingTree Tiered Social Network Meets U.S. Government Parent Engagement Guidelines

The LivingTree Tiered Social Network enables family engagement regardless of language preference or socio-economic status, and addresses the directives set by the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). ESSA requires extensive parent-teacher communication including two-way native language conversations with every family. These requirements must be met to receive Federal funds allocated for low-income environments (Title 1).

LivingTree enables school-family engagement in an organized, flexible manner that maps to the relevant view for each community member. The typical LivingTree classroom has 120 interactions per family each month. Standard family / teacher interactions include classroom updates, photos, family questions, and calendar events.

LivingTree has been embraced by schools across the country for its unique ability to connect parents and teachers, helping them achieve millions of online conversations. Lesley Weaver, Irving Independent School District’s director of communications, shares that “In Irving ISD, we started out with 13 campuses as early adopters of LivingTree. The feedback we received from parents, principals and teachers has been incredible. It’s helped solidify parents’ trust in our schools.”

Launched in 2012 to bridge the family engagement gap, LivingTree’s level of transparency and partnership moves beyond classroom involvement, giving teachers, school, and district administrators the ability to send and receive messages, media alerts, push notifications, event reminders, and volunteer opportunities to parents and students. Users can share photos, documents, files, emails, texts and posts automatically translate into more than 100 languages.

Dean Drako, LivingTree Executive Chairman

Dean Drako is a well known serial entrepreneur with more than five successful ventures; he holds 29 U.S. patents. In additional to being founder and former CEO of Barracuda Networks, he is currently the CEO of cloud video surveillance company Eagle Eye Networks, which provides video surveillance solutions to K-12 schools and districts.

Mr. Drako will use his extensive business, cloud software, and cybersecurity expertise  to scale LivingTree and continue to deliver a robust, reliable, and cybersecure solution for school and family engagement.

“We are honored to have a new partner in our mission to transform engagement for administrators, educators, families, and students alike,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. Dean has been working with us to enhance our functionality and security, as well as to reach more communities in our mission to positively impact student achievement.”

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.

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What is Livingtree’s Tiered Social Network?

Livingtree builds trust and partnership between schools and families by providing a secure school communication paltform to enable family engagement. LivingTree builds these communities using the LivingTree Tiered Social NetworkR.

What is LivingTree’s Tiered Social NetworkR?

It is a private social network that is built as a hierarchy, or ‘tiered’ – like an organization chart or feeder pattern. Each group (class, grade level, etc.) has its own private community which nests into the organizational layer above it. Conversation and content flow up, down, and across the tiered network based on group membership and relationship to the community.

Users are given relevant content based on their relationships or connections to the community. For example, a kindergarten parent receives their class, kindergarten grade level, school, and district level content. They are not disturbed with irrelevant information from other classes, grades, or schools within the broader community.

Livingtree Tiered Social Network Diagram

LivingTree’s Tiered Social NetworkR uniquely gives administrators at each level the full view and analytics of the smaller community networks feeding into their part of the organization. LivingTree empowers leaders and organizations to connect, share, and coordinate up, down and across all levels of their private Tiered Social NetworkR.

With all engagement efforts (announcements, texts, alerts, photo sharing, volunteer management, two way conversation, private messaging, etc.) in a single network, administrators, teachers, and parents experience less chaos and frustration, save time, and can focus on engagement!



Company Recognized for Connecting Communities through Innovative Mobile Platform

AUSTIN, TX – November 19, 2016LivingTree, a K-12 family engagement platform provider, is pleased to announce it was awarded two Stevie® Awards at the 13th annual Stevie Awards for Women in Business. The company received the Gold Stevie Award for the Community Involvement Program of the Year, and the Silver Stevie Award for the Smartphone or Tablet App of the Year.

“With a mission focused on connecting K-12 communities, this recognition is incredibly special as it highlights both LivingTree’s technical and relationship-building achievements,” said Joni Carswell, CEO of LivingTree. “Our mobile and web solution facilitates partnerships between educators, families, and community leaders – strengthening the network in support of every child’s education, growth and development. We are excited for our continued innovation to help every child succeed.”


LivingTree is a private and secure social network for K-12 schools and districts that closes the school-family engagement gap. LivingTree enables districts, schools and teachers to engage students’ families, regardless of language preference or socio-economic status, and addresses Every Student Succeeds Act directives requiring extensive parent-teacher communication including two-way native language conversations with every family. Users can share photos, documents, files, emails, texts and posts in more than 100 languages via an innovative and easy-to-use mobile application.

The Stevie Awards for Women in Business are the world’s top honors for female entrepreneurs, executives, employees and the organizations they run. All individuals and organizations worldwide are eligible to submit nominations – public and private, for-profit and non-profit, large and small. The 2016 awards received entries from 31 nations and territories.

Nicknamed the Stevies for the Greek word for “crowned,” the awards were presented to winners last night during a dinner event attended by more than 500 people at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City. The event was broadcast on Livestream.

“Each year we think the quality of achievements portrayed in Stevie-winning nominations couldn’t possibly get any better, and each year the amazing women who are recognized in this program prove us wrong,” said Michael Gallagher, Stevie Awards founder and president. “We are thrilled and humbled to be able to recognize so many outstanding women in the Stevie Awards for Women in Business, and to share the stories of their achievement with the world.”

Communication – Addressing the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA)

The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015 introduced many updates regarding family engagement. Anne T. Henderson of the Annenberg Institute for School Reform released an excellent brief detailing the updates. LivingTree uniquely addresses the need to implement campus and district wide collaboration – allowing for two way conversation in native language. Below are relevant excerpts from Anne T. Henderson’s brief and ESSA.

The purpose of Title I: “To provide all children significant opportunity to receive a fair, equitable, and high-quality education, and to close educational achievement gaps.”


Title I: Parent and family engagement

District policy: (1) In general — A school district may receive funds under this part only if:

–It conducts outreach to all parents and family members;

–Implements programs, activities, and procedures to involve parents and family members in Title I programs.

–Plans and implements such programs, activities, and procedures with meaningful consultation with parents of participating children.

Reservation of funds for parent and family engagement – Minimum 1 percent:

–Each district shall reserve at least 1 percent of its Title I allocation to assist schools to carry out the parent and family engagement activities (except for districts where 1 percent of the district grant is $5,000 or less). This provision shall not limit districts from reserving more than 1 percent.

–Parent and family input: Parents and family members of children receiving Title I services shall be involved in the decisions regarding how these funds reserved are allotted for parent involvement activities.

–Distribution of funds: Not less than 90 percent of the funds reserved shall be distributed to schools served under this part, with priority given to high-need schools.

–Use of funds: Funds reserved by the district shall be used to carry out activities and strategies consistent with the district’s parent and family engagement policy, including at least 1 of the following:

a. Professional development: Supporting schools and nonprofit organizations in providing professional development for local educational agency and school personnel regarding parent and family engagement strategies, which may be provided jointly to teachers, principals, and other school leaders, specialized instructional support personnel, paraprofessionals, early childhood educators, and parents and family members.

b. Home-based programs: Supporting programs that reach parents and family members at home, in the community, and at school.

c. Disseminating information: Informing on best practices focused on parent and family engagement, especially best practices for increasing the engagement of economically disadvantaged parents and family members.

d. Collaborating with community-based organizations: Providing subgrants to schools so they can collaborate, with community-based or other organizations or employers with a record of success in improving and increasing parent and family engagement.

e. Other activities: Engaging in any other activities and strategies that the local educational agency determines are appropriate and consistent with such agency’s parent and family engagement policy;

Shared responsibility for high student academic achievement: School-Parent Compact

As a component of the school-level parent and family engagement policy developed under this section, each school served under Title I shall jointly develop with parents for all Title I children a school-parent compact that outlines how parents, the entire school staff, and students will share the responsibility for improved student academic achievement and the means by which the school and parents will build and develop a partnership to help children achieve the State’s high standards. The compact shall:

Describe parent-teacher communications:
Address the importance of ongoing communication between teachers and parents through, at a minimum:

1. Parent-teacher conferences in elementary schools, at least annually, during which the compact shall be discussed as it relates to the individual child’s achievement;
2. Frequent reports to parents on their children’s progress;
3. Reasonable parent access to staff, opportunities to volunteer and participate in their child’s class, and observation of classroom activities; and
3. Regular two-way, meaningful communication between family members and school staff, and, to the extent practicable, in a language that family members can understand.

Livingtree’s school communication platform addresses every aspect of parent-teacher communication, enables campus and district wide dissemination of information, encourages collaboration with community organizations, and grants every community equitable access.

Guiding Teachers through Family Engagement

Families join our teachers from a variety of circumstances and cultures. Moving beyond beginning of school introductions to partnership takes planning and effort. True family engagement is a year long process.

Teaching Tolerance has excellent resources available to guide teachers in partnering with ALL families throughout the year to achieve ultimate student success. From this attitudinal survey to guidance on respect, their resources can simplify planning. Attitude and respect are paramount to developing and maintaining family relationships. Three key respect takeaways:

1. Value the cultural knowledge children bring to school by acknowledging family diversity through discussion, affirmation and celebration.
2. Build cultural continuity between home and school to encourage parent involvement in school activities.
3. Explore your own family background as well as the diversity specific to your classroom community.

Communicating in home language, reaching every parent where they are, and allowing two way conversation between all families are key steps in realizing respect and transparency. Technology in the form of a single, secure platform like Livingtree’s School Communication System can provide this and be a cornerstone in achieving your engagement plans, transparency, and mutual respect this year.

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