Meet Maria Ovalle-Lopez and Brittany James : Klein ISD Family Engagement
In celebrating National Family Engagement Month, we sat down with Maria Ovalle-Lopez, the Director for Family Engagement in Klein ISD, and Brittany James, Coordinator of Family Engagement for the Klein Forest Family of Schools, to talk about what this month means to them and their roles in the District.
Read on to catch a special look into the Klein ISD Family Engagement Department and how they positively impact our students for the best.
How are you empowering your team to perform their work duties to the best of their ability?
Maria: “We have a tremendous team. I am blessed to have Brittany here as well, which has helped me in expanding family engagement in Klein, but also we have to thank our parent liaisons of the Klein Forest family of schools. We are thankful to have strategic partnerships with other staff members, like the counseling team, specialists, multilingual, advanced academics, etc. So it is nice to see that family engagement is truly embraced in Klein ISD by everybody and to serve every family.”
Brittany: “In my role as coordinator, I carry out the Director’s vision for Family Engagement. We make sure that the liaisons that we are blessed to have on each campus in the Klein Forest family of schools are not only connecting with the needs of the families and truly building the capacity within teachers, but that the liaisons make sure they build the capacity within families. My job is to make sure that we are reaching out to the community, and that we’re meeting them where they are and bringing them and linking them to their child’s learning to ensure a successful partnership.”
Why is family engagement so important across the district?
Maria: “When a family is invested and partnering with a school we see an increase in student attendance, academic achievement, students more likely to complete high school and to go onto other careers or technology education or profession.
During COVID-19 pandemic, I think everyone has realized the importance of not only the family being engaged, but for the school of families to have a partnership on behalf of the student. It is interesting to see how everyone is going back to personal phone calls, home visits, to really getting to know where the student is coming from and what parents are doing at home to support learning. We want to discover what the families are already doing for the student and how we can use that to our advantage.
Brittany: “I use the quote Families can’t do it without the school, and the school can’t do it without the families simply because a student is with a teacher on a campus for 8 hours of the day, but you also have the parents who spend extensive time with the student, so that partnership is extremely important to help mold the student and as we say in Klein, exit with a purpose. The two can’t function without each other and I think that is extremely important to realize.”
We’ve heard that our Family Engagement Program is State Recognized. What steps were taken to earn this distinction?
Maria: “Because of our Parent University graduation we had the opportunity to have Anita Villarreal, who is the Director for Federal Programs at TEA. She came to our graduation and from there she started to get an interest in what we were doing in Klein ISD. From there she invited us to be part of the state council for Family Engagement. They only select 3 districts in the entire state of Texas so it is quite an honor and we still serve on the council to represent Klein ISD. The council saw we are taking steps to make sure family engagement is embedded across the district at every level.”
Brittany: “The word engagement is key because it used to be parents were involved but now they are engaged and play a huge role in that. Maria has done this work for 15 years, and the footwork for making sure that the work is exemplar. From being a parent liaison, to a coordinator, and now putting in the work as Director, that is how you get to be state recognized.”
What is your favorite Family Engagement Event? Why is that your favorite?
Maria: “To me any event that is thoughtfully planned for families is my favorite. Any event that involves both pieces coming together to work on behalf of the student, from Dance with Dad events, fun runs, to academic events- if it is intentionally planned to build partnerships and to connect families with learning – that is my favorite.”
Brittany: “The Parent University graduation is my favorite event because parents are actually able to experience what it means to be involved in their child’s life, and as a reward are celebrated in a traditional graduation ceremony cap and gown style. Students are pulled out of class to be part of their parent’s ceremony. For students to be able to experience their parents being celebrated in such a way for showing up and doing the work for Parent University is truly an amazing experience.”
What are your department goals for this year?
Maria: “Our main goal is always connecting families to learning. This year we have to be more focused on maintaining and strengthening the relationships with families because we know that families are struggling with keeping jobs, and making sure everyone is safe and healthy. We probably cannot have events with 50-60 people, but we can stay in touch with the humanity of the families and to spread compassion and kindness.”
Brittany: “My goal would be to make sure that I’m reaching out to every family. This is a prime opportunity for teachers, principals, and the district to get to know families on a more personal level. Getting in contact with humanity and really getting to know families for who they are.”
Huge shoutout to Maria and Brittany for all you do for our district and the students of Klein ISD. We are grateful for your service and care for the experience of our students.
Interested in getting involved with Family Engagement? Click HERE for more information on how to start the process.
Best Public Schools in Texas
Klein ISD has an established 84-year history of excellence and innovation in education with unique pathways for EVERY student in our care to ensure learners are college, career, military, and life ready. With recognition for STEM, athletics, fine arts, and academics from highly-esteemed organizations, it is clear that Our Shared Vision of every student entering with a promise and exiting with a purpose is a reality for EVERY student who walks through our doors.
About Klein ISD
Klein ISD is a school district in Klein, Texas, located in northwestern Harris County. The district spans approximately 88 square miles and serves more than 53,000 students in 33 elementary schools, 10 intermediate campuses, one high school program of choice, and 5 high schools.
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There are so many incredible individuals in the Klein Family making a lasting impact on our community. We want to recognize and celebrate our leaders and learners that are cultivating talent, building relationships, reimagining learning and making Promise2Purpose a reality daily. Share your story here: https://kleinfamily.net