Category: Parent Teacher Leadership Academy

Health Topics Covered in Parent Leadership Academy Session

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Photos by Fuyan Zhang

By Taylor Armer
CCBP Student Assistant

Local educators and community partners discussed ways to ensure the overall health and safety of children in and out of the classroom at the Parent Leadership Academy’s fifth session of the school year, Thursday, February 9 at the The University of Alabama’s Bryant Conference Center.

In each of three separate sessions — Pre-Kindergarten Parent Leadership Academy (PKPLA), Elementary Parent Leadership Academy (EPLA) and Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA) — members heard two presentations from their agenda’s specific lecturers. They were the following:

  • PKPLA met with Caliste Chong, the West Alabama Early Care and Education Learning Collaborative (ECELC) project coordinator at the Alabama Partnership for Children, and Dr. Brian Gannon, assistant professor of pediatrics at UA’s College of Community Health Sciences.
  • EPLA met with counselors Miranda Little and Mary Thompson from Rock Quarry Elementary and Rock Quarry Middle schools, respectively, and Brandon Chalmers, the adult/family education program director at Tuscaloosa’s One Place.
  • HPLA met with Derek Osborn, executive director of Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE), as well as Dr. Elizabeth Hancock, coordinator of Instructional Technology with Tuscaloosa City Schools (TCS), and Chris Jenks, director.

“Each speaker was chosen for the resources and expertise that they can provide for the parent leaders of each academy,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community education at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, an initiative of the UA Division of Community Affairs.

Nutrition and health was central to the PKPLA’s agenda. Caliste Chong’s presentation, “Early Childhood Nutrition: Alabama Partnership for Children,” provided tips for parents on how to create, maintain and sustain a healthy lifestyle for their preschoolers starting with an overhaul of the snack pantry.

Instead of Little Debbie cakes or honeybuns, Chong recommended that parents have “fruits like bananas or grapes, vegetables and other types of healthy snacks readily available.”

Chong, who earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in human development and family studies from the University, suggested that parents engage in “family style dining,” where members of the household eat and interact at the table.

“There are a lot of teachable moments if you eat together,” she said. “Let the kids help set the table and let them help clean the table, and even serve themselves at times. They learn about portions, serving sizes and even measurements. They also use their hands to work on fine motor skills.”

Dr. Brian Gannon followed Chong’s presentation on nutrition with one titled “Healthy Starts for Preschool: Communicating with School Nurses and your Pediatrician” in which he outlined instances when pre-school children should be excluded from school because of an illness and when it’s safe for them to return, as well as other health-related issues.

If a child experiences a high, consistent fever or repetitive vomiting, then he or she may have an infection and should be kept home, said Gannon, adding that any child with infections such as strep throat, chicken pox and bloody diarrhea should stay home.

After reviewing the history of health and safety in U.S. schools, counselors Miranda Little and Mary Thompson of the Rock Quarry campus described how TCS responds to current issues such as suicide and bullying in a presentation titled “Health and Safety: More than Just Apples and Running in the Hallway.”

Little, a former social studies teacher at both Tuscaloosa and Rock Quarry Middle schools, detailed the TCS protocol for a student who has been self-identified as a suicidal risk. Counselors and trained personnel at the school isolate the student, place him or her in the immediate presence of an adult, investigate the claim thoroughly and contact the child’s parent or guardian.

“Suicide is the second leading cause of death among youths age 10 and up,” she said. “Even if the child blurts it out casually, or even when we don’t think they mean it, we must take the situation seriously.”

Little said that after the child is dismissed (not suspended) from school, a health practitioner must evaluate the child before he or she is allowed to re-enter the building. The child must also meet with a counselor and present a letter that details a plan of action for the child.

“Then, we fill out a safety plan with that student,” she said. “We identify steps that we can take with them in school to make them feel safe and we make sure they have someone to whom they can talk. “

TCS counselors and trained personnel have also undergone extensive investigative procedures for bullying, one of the nation’s most pervasive social issues. Although Thompson, who received her master’s degree in counselor education from the University of Mississippi, said bullying or harassment indicates an “imbalance of power,” she admitted that it has been hard to identify in some cases.

Thompson said counselors, social workers and teachers who have training for what to do in those situations talk about how to recognize bullying and harassment. “One thing people don’t really understand is that bullying or harassment to this extent is a repetitive, ongoing change of power, which involves so many different layers,” she said.

The EPLA session ended with a presentation by Brandon Chalmers, Adult/Family Education Program director at Tuscaloosa’s One Place, titled “Parental Involvement: Supporting Success for the ‘Whole Child.’” At Tuscaloosa’s One Place, Chalmers supervises a team that coordinates programs to connect families with vital resources, become economically stable and self-sufficient and equip parents with the skills and knowledge needed as caregivers and providers for their children.

His presentation focused on health, fatherhood initiatives and parental involvement as significant contributors necessary to the success of the “whole” child.

PRIDE executive director Osborn discussed reducing and preventing substance abuse, emphasizing the importance of setting up a “belief for students” to be empowered and knowledgeable about substance abuse, which is essential to prevention. If parents suspect a problem, he said, it is important to reach out for support.

Ending the HPLA session, Jenks and Hancock explained the relationship between digital skill and citizenship. Their presentation was titled “Digital Citizenship and Learning: A Parent’s Guide to Helping Kids Navigate Instructional Technology.”

Jenks emphasized the four Cs that prepare students for college and career: communication, collaboration, creating new things (or taking something old and making it new), and critically thinking about decisions they will make.

“Each of those skills can be enhanced and supported by technology,” Jenks said. Acquiring these skills requires the opportunity to learn at school and to practice at home, he added.

Those opportunities include the initiative that has provided sixth grade students in any Tuscaloosa City school the chance to become informed, purposeful digital citizens using Google Chromebook devices at school and at home.

Both Jenks and Hancock agreed that parental oversight on students’ personal technological devices would ensure that students “make those good choices necessary in becoming good digital citizens.”

“In the same way that you would want to know your child’s phone password,” Jenks said, “you would want to protect them on the Internet by setting boundaries.”

After each academy’s session ended, parent leaders reconvened in their respective school groups to work further on their PTLA project action plans that will be presented at the next meeting Thursday, March 9.

PTLA is a joint initiative of the Tuscaloosa City and County School Systems, the University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, and the faculty in the University of Alabama’s College of Education and College of Human Environmental Sciences. It utilizes research–based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support student achievement through strong family-school partnerships.

PTLA Hosts Superintendents, Teachers and Parents for Collaborative Panel Session

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By Taylor Armer
CCBP Student Assistant

For the first time in the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy’s (PTLA) history, superintendents and central office personnel from participating school systems served as panelists at the program’s fourth session of the 2016–2017 academic year.

The joint session, on Thursday, January 19, in Sellers Auditorium of the Bryant Conference Center, explored the topic: “School and Board of Education Relations: Effective Communication and Collaboration in Family, School and Community Partnerships.”

Superintendents Dr. Wayne Vickers, Alabaster City School System; Dr. Michael Daria, Tuscaloosa City School System; Dr. Walter Davie, Tuscaloosa County School System; and Federal Programs Director Scott Walker, Lamar County School System shared with PTLA members how they have fostered and facilitated communication and collaboration practices as leaders in their perspective districts.

Dr. Holly Morgan, director of Community Education at the Center for Community-Based Partnerships, said she was delighted to have school system representatives at this panel discussion, which consisted of questions drafted by the PTLA, as well as by parents and teachers in attendance.

“In addition to this being the first time that superintendents have participated as PTLA session panelists, this session also marks the first time that parents and teachers have collaborated on a singular project that is directly tied to a school improvement goal,” said Morgan. “Through this collaboration, we anticipate great things for the future.”


Vickers, with more than 26 years of experience as a teacher and administrator in public school districts throughout Alabama, said that in addition to creating a “safe and productive learning environment” in all schools, “human interaction with parents” has helped school leaders and officials, himself included, connect with students and families outside of the classroom.

“The responsibility of a superintendent is to share with principals and assistant principals that we want to find out that extra layer,” Vickers said. “We want to hear it, whether it is uncomfortable, and whether it’s positive or negative.”

Walker, who is also interim principal of Lamar County High and Intermediate School, agreed with Vickers and added that effective internal and external communication equals “a shared vision of academic success for every student” with parent engagement central to achieving this goal.

Under Daria’s leadership, the Tuscaloosa City School System has worked to sustain communication among all levels of school leadership — principals, teachers, superintendents, school board — and parents by implementing a strategy that has provided “constant feedback” from a sampling of parents in the district.

“We have a team that interviews teachers, students and parents,” he said. “It’s just a snapshot [of that school]. We get that, but when you triangulate all of that information, you get a really good sense of where that school is academically, with school culture, and with its relationship with students, parents and stakeholders.”


Daria, who served as executive director of personnel and assistant superintendent prior to his current role, emphasized that “intentional, purposeful communication” with parents, and the school’s faculty and staff should be a continuous effort for superintendents.

“We must ask ourselves how do we make sure this [communication] happens on an ongoing basis,” he said, “not just when it’s critical to get information out, but also when it’s critical to get information in.”

Direct contact with school board leaders has been one of the traditional ways parents and teachers have provided feedback to their respective districts. Although the process differed slightly by school district, panelists recommended following the established chain of command in communicating a question or concern to school leaders.

Before ending the panel portion of the night’s session, school district leaders offered strategies to PTLA members on how to best incorporate effective communication into their proposed action plans.

Davie, a UA alumnus with 27 years of education experience as both a teacher and administrator in Tuscaloosa, advised members to consider ways to “enhance established actions plans” by thinking of the key to two or three things needed to advance their respective schools.

“I would challenge you to think about [several things],” he said: “What is the focus and vision for your school? What has been identified in your school’s action plan by teachers, parent leaders and school board members as key things needed to move your school forward? And how can we further support what’s happening with those plans?”

PTLA is a joint initiative of the Tuscaloosa City and County School Systems, the University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships, and the faculty in the University of Alabama’s College of Education and College of Human Environmental Sciences. It utilizes research–based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support student achievement through strong family-school partnerships.

Parent Teacher Leadership Academy to Host Speaker Marsha Greenfeld December 1


TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) at The University of Alabama will host Marsha Greenfeld, senior program facilitator at Johns Hopkins University, as a guest speaker at its all-day teacher workshop, to be held Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Bryant Conference Center on the UA campus.

“We are happy to have Marsha Greenfeld, of the National Network of Partnership Schools, with us to share her knowledge and experience regarding school, family and community partnerships,” said Dr. Holly Morgan, director of community education in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships.

Greenfeld, who works with the prestigious university’s National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS), will lead the second session of the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA), titled “Communicating Academic Goals Necessary for Student Success.” Her knowledge of goal-oriented partnership programs stems from time spent as a teacher and district-level facilitator for partnerships in the Baltimore City Public School System. Additionally, she worked in the technical assistance branch of the Office of Federal Grants Programs in Washington, D.C. Public Schools and as a partnership coordinator in the national office of Communities in Schools.

Established at Johns Hopkins University, NNPS provides professional development for schools, districts, states and organizations, utilizing research-based approaches to implement and sustain programs of family and community involvement to increase student success in school.

The PTLA is expanding the NNPS model during the 2016–2107 school year to foster leadership and develop partnerships with members of the Parent Leadership Academy (PLA), Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA), Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA) and Pre-Kindergarten Parent Leadership Academy (PKPLA) in their respective classrooms, schools and communities.

“We believe that [Greenfeld] will help us to ‘connect the dots’ between the framework set forth by the National Network of Partnership Schools and the goals of the Parent Teacher Leadership Academy,” said Morgan.

The NNPS framework is comprised of six types of involvement: parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making and collaborating. Informed by these central concepts of involvement, parents and teachers of participating schools will join together to build a one-year action plan to improve school, family and community partnerships.

“All academy members will work collaboratively in their respective school teams in order to design a PTLA partnership project,” said Morgan. “The partnership project should be guided by at least one of the school’s improvement goals.

“We are thrilled to have 43 teachers from Tuscaloosa City, Tuscaloosa County, Lamar County and Alabaster City Schools as participants in the Teacher Leadership Academy for the 2016–2017 school year. Additionally, the Parent Leadership Academy hosts 75 parent participants from these same school districts,” said Morgan, who went on to note that both parents and teachers are selected for participation by their school’s principal.

“We look forward to welcoming all who are participating in the December 1 workshop, and to a productive day of learning and planning for the future,” said Morgan.

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) is a leadership program that utilizes research-based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support student achievement through strong family/school partnerships. It is a joint initiative of the Tuscaloosa City and County School Systems, The University of Alabama’s Center for Community-Based Partnerships and the faculty in the University’s College of Education and College of Human Environmental Sciences.

Parent Teacher Leadership Academy Holds 2016 Graduation

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Photos by Fuyan Zhang
CCBP Student Assistant

The Parent Teacher Leadership Academy (PTLA) culminated its year-long program in a celebration dinner and graduation ceremony on Thursday, April 21 at the Embassy Suites Hotel in downtown Tuscaloosa. 

Graduates received certificates that signified their completion of the two-semester program that began in fall 2015. Parents and teachers from Tuscaloosa city and county, Alabaster city, and Lamar county schools, along with their family and friends, attended the event.

Dr. Rosianna Gray, community education director in the Center for Community-Based Partnerships (CCBP), congratulated the graduates for their successes and praised their “inspiring dedication” to being more active in their schools. “This year’s PTLA cohort is an amazing group of parents and teachers who are extremely enthusiastic and compassionate about their roles in school involvement. I am exceptionally proud of each and every one of you and we look forward to next year’s cohort,” she said.

Rose Bryant, a 2015-2016 graduate of the Elementary Parent Leadership Academy and parent of Aaron Bryant from Central Elementary School, thanked the leaders and participants for their commitment to excellence and diversity. “At these sessions, I met parents from all walks of life, and from different schools. I learned that it didn’t matter where your child went to school, but that every child matters,” she said.

Bryant, a special education major at Stillman College, also said she appreciated the program’s emphasis on building parent leaders and mentors at the participants’ host schools. Many of the parents in the program created leadership projects and displayed their work on posters at the event.

All PTLA projects addressed key areas parents thought would improve the lives of students, teachers and the administrative staff of their perspective schools. Among them were the following projects acknowledged at the luncheon:

— An Evening of Etiquette, by Stephanie Mixon and Tyeishia Davis from Big Sandy Elementary of Tuscaloosa county schools, recognized for its promotion of positive social interaction in a social setting.

— Moms on Board, by Malaya M. Johnson of Matthews Elementary School of Tuscaloosa County Schools for helping in and around the school and for adding a “motherly touch.”

Parent and teacher involvement in the Elementary Parent Leadership Academy (EPLA), Hispanic Parent Leadership Academy (HPLA), and Pre-K Parent Leadership Academy (PKLA), and the Teacher Leadership Academy (TLA) resulted in 78 graduates from the 2015-2016 cohort. 

TLA graduates are as follows:

Tuscaloosa county schools: Laura Barnes, Morice Bowden, Stephanie Chess, Melissa Coleman, Brenda Davis, Jessica Heron, Dr. Nicole Hill, Vicky Hoggle, Amy McCown, Beatrice Nichols, Caitlin Parker, Kylie Phillips, Angela Pinion, Chelsey Summerrow and Alison Wright.

Tuscaloosa city schools: Teresa Bryant, Cyrinthia Burrell, Katy Busby, Tiffany Craig, Taylor Crawford, Racheal Goggins, Sylvia Hollins, Kantrele King, Cheryl Lewis, Sara Beth McCartney, Sara Ogonowski, Julia Sanders, Tracey Sanders, Juerette Thomas, Shamikka Walker-Dudley, and Susie Wheat.

Alabaster city schools: Holly Alverson, Amanda Burks, Cheryl Dominguez, Mandy Heatherly, Kathryn Owensby, Kelly Preveaux, Laura Reina, and Kathy Savage

Lamar county schools: LoriAnn Butler

The graduating parents across EPLA, HPLA, and PKLA are as follows:

Tuscaloosa county schools: Amy Beasley, Kim Bryant, Heather Corder, Tyeishia Davis, Shawnee Franklin, Shelley Gregory, Charity Guyton, Melissa Holt, Malaya Johnson, Stephanie Mixon, Melissa Mott, Lisa Robertson, DeAngle Scott, Megan Steen, Felicia Taylor, Leslie Thomas, Brenda Wells, and Judith Zambrano.

Tuscaloosa city cchools: Johnna Arabi, Yuridia Arizmendi, Rose Bryant, Gladys Fabian, David Gay, Maria Orozco Hernandez, Molly Ingram, Jessica Jenkins, Sharon Jenkins, Anallely Lopez, Patricia Lopez, Alma Saenz, and Sharon Thomas.

Alabaster city schools: Deanna Bess, Shannon Carden, Regan Hasenbein, Candi Nichols, Jamila Shaw, Juanita Sims, and Jamia Alexander-Williams.

In closing remarks, Dr. Samory Pruitt, vice president of the Division of Community Affairs, announced the possibility of adding a new parent/teacher program in the future. “Some of the Alabaster teachers suggested that we create an academy that focuses on middle schools. We’re possibly piloting something very soon,” he said.

PTLA is a joint initiative of Tuscaloosa city and county school systems, CCBP, and the faculty in the University of Alabama’s College of Education and Human Environmental Sciences. The organization utilizes research–based practices to provide professional development to parent and teacher leaders who use their knowledge to support student achievement through strong family-school partnerships.