New Platform to a Successful Parent Engagement in Schools


After Gretchen Kasper-Hoffman’s first year of student teaching in one of Houston’s inner-city schools, Gretchen knew she wanted to continue her career educating students in urban school communities. Gretchen chose the k-12 education field because she desired to make a difference in the world, and she firmly believes “education is the most important thing.” Gretchen is in her 10th year as principal of Grady Middle School in Houston ISD. Grady adopted LivingTree in the fall of 2013 – before translation, directory, group code, and student user functionality. As principal of one of the first schools to implement LivingTree, principal Gretchen Kasper-Hoffman can speak to the critical relationship between parent engagement and student success.

Describe your parent engagement strategy and methodology prior to LivingTree: “We used our school website to post school-wide announcements and happenings, but our website platform was (and still is) hard to navigate. Teachers would also do weekly posts on the site. Teacher to parent correspondence would happen through emails and phone calls, and teachers would send letters home along with report cards. Alongside that, our PTO would send a weekly email blast out to parents.”

Why did you decide to use a new tool for parent engagement? “Well, the website was hard for us. It’s clunky, takes a long time to get into, and the results are never great. It was hard to make a blurb or post look pretty. I was initially attracted to LivingTree because it’s so much easier to drop a quick announcement or post of photos or files.”

What was your implementation of LivingTree like? “For our first year, we had a few LivingTree reps come out to lead a teacher training. This last year, one of our teachers who is very comfortable with LivingTree, led a training for the rest of the staff. For parents, we give out packets explaining what LivingTree is and how they can connect to the network. Our data system has outdated information for our parents, so we use group code to invite parents and students into their classes – we love the group code feature! I would like to have 95% of our parents and students on LivingTree next year. It helps that we are a feeder school to Briargrove Elementary, who also uses LivingTree. This means many of our parents are already on LivingTree when their students come to our school.”

What were your results using LivingTree? “LivingTree makes it so much easier to share information. Because we share so much, parents who missed the group code invitation will ask to be connected. I can see that our relationship with parents has improved. I do believe we have better engagement in our community since using LivingTree.”

What feature do you use the most? “We use inbox a lot. Our parents use inbox to communicate one-on-one with me and the teachers.”

What would you say to teachers who are hesitant to use technology for engagement? “We are able to get more information out with technology. After using LivingTree to communicate with parents, I encouraged LivingTree to add students as users because our students also want to know what is going on – they want to keep up on their grades, check their assignments, homework, etc. Now my kids are very active on LivingTree.”

What would you do if LivingTree were taken away? “I guess I would have to rely on Twitter…. Though it’s not easy to share information on Twitter.”

What one thing would you say about LivingTree to others? “LivingTree has the best customer support! When I contact support I know I will receive a response within seconds, and usually support will do the task or resolve the issue for me, so I don’t have to do anything! In fact, I’ve been meaning to reach out and see if I can set up an incoming 6th grade group to begin communicating with my new parents and students over the summer. Our district’s school messenger system does not roll over until August and that is too late for me. With LivingTree, I can start communicating with new Grady families now.”



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