Bilhartz Begins Partnership with Strong Fathers, Strong Families

Filed under: Schools |

Principal Ebonye McGee is new to Bilhartz Elementary, but not new to elementary school administration. She was previously the assistant principal at Hastings Elementary, where she began Duncanville ISD’s partnership with Strong Fathers, Strong Families (SFSF). “I found that Mike Hall’s (founder of SFSF) philosophy on parental involvement very much mirrored my own, and I forged a relationship with him,” commented McGee.

Hastings Elementary first partnered with SFSF to host a Bring Your Dad to School Day event in Fall 2009. Since then J Michael Hall has returned to that campus several times, and has started programs at other campuses including Hardin Intermediate and Bilhartz. “I wanted to make sure that Bilhartz students, families, and staff also had the benefit of that partnership as we work to chart our new path for success,” said McGee. “This involves increasing parental involvement opportunities, and giving parents tools that will be useful in participating actively in their students’ academic endeavors.”

Bilhartz Elementary held its first Bring Your Dad to School Day on November 11, inviting fathers, father figures, and other family members into their children’s classrooms. “This event was not an open house where student projects and performances were highlighted,” explained McGee. “We wanted parents to experience what their children experience every day. They saw ‘business as usual’ in the classroom, then had an opportunity to debrief with other dads and visitors in facilitated conversation.” Hall led the discussion as visitors shared what they saw and how it was new and different compared to their own elementary experiences. Learning how they can help their students at home, parents also got to know each other through a fun activity involving Koosh balls and rubber chickens.

With a turnout of more than 250 guests, McGee counts Bilhartz’s initial SFSF event a success. “What was more indicative of success were the smiles on the faces of our students and their guests,” she said. “We collected feedback in the form of a survey, and it was extremely positive. Nearly 100% indicated that if they could change anything about our time together, they would have more time in the classroom.”