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U.S. Department of Education: Partnering with Diverse Families and Using Data to Drive School Improvement

As virtual and hybrid settings have brought the classroom into homes across the country, strong and sustainable school and family partnerships are even more crucial in improving student outcomes. In this session, participants will learn effective ways to effectively engage with families from diverse populations to drive school improvement and systems change efforts. Presenters will discuss the importance of incorporating data into family engagement, how to help families make meaningful use of education data, and how to build the capacity of educators and families to partner in improvement efforts. Presenters will also discuss the role of social-emotional learning, cultural awareness, and using multiple modes of communication in establishing strong relationships with families.

This talk was presented at:
2021 National ESEA Conference
February 2021 in Cyberspace
Speakers
Colleen Toomey

Colleen Toomey (she/her/hers) received her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology from the University of California, Santa Cruz and her Master’s degree in Higher Education and Student Affairs Administration from the University of Vermont. She has nearly 15 years of experience in education, with a particular focus on social justice and inclusion work. Colleen currently works as a Principal Analyst for the Western Educational Equity Assistance Center in Denver, a US Department of Education grant that focuses on civil rights work in K-12 school districts. Her passion lies in creating equity-minded learning experiences for educators. 

Carolyn Hayer

 Carolyn has been working in the field of parent and family advocacy for over twenty-five years. She is currently the Senior Program Director of National and Regional Projects at SPAN Parent Advocacy Network in NJ. SPAN is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower families and to inform and involve professionals and other individuals interested in the healthy development and education of children.

As Director of the Center for Parent Information and Resources, Carolyn and her team work to provide information and products to build capacity of the close to 100 Parent Centers across the country who assist and serve families of children with disabilities. In her various roles at SPAN, Carolyn has conducted presentations at the local, state and national levels on topics related to health and education advocacy, family-professional partnerships, and family and youth leadership development. She previously served as Co-Director of multiple projects supporting parent centers to address issues from reaching and supporting underserved families to non-profit management to building capacity to reach, serve, and grow leadership skills of diverse youth and young adults with disabilities as they transition to adulthood.

According to Dr. Martin Luther King, life’s most persistent and urgent question is, “What are you doing for others?” Carolyn has answered that question by serving in a myriad of ways. She has volunteered at all levels- from local leadership as PTA president, Recreation & Cultural Board member, local Education Foundation trustee, and School Board president to state leadership as a NJ State Special Education Advisory Council member, Disability Rights NJ Board member, Arc of NJ Governmental Affairs Committee member, and Governor appointee to the NJ Council on Developmental Disabilities and the NJ State Rehabilitation Council. Carolyn is a recipient of the Phi Delta Kappa, Delta Nu Chapter Community Service Recognition Award, the Arc of Bergen & Passaic Professional of the Year Award and the Hackensack Education Foundation Distinguished Citizen Award. She is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration degree from Rutgers University.

Beth Yeh

Beth Yeh is the team leader for the Statewide Family Engagement Center and the D.C. Opportunity Scholarship Programs in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education at the U.S. Department of Education. She has worked at the Department for twenty years on program evaluations and literacy. Beth earned a bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University and a master’s degree from the L.B.J. School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas. She is a mother of two children.

Jennifer Miley

Jennifer Miley’s passion for education dates back to high school where she volunteered as a tutor at an elementary school. She still remembers the teacher who welcomed her as a classroom assistant and the joy and excitement she experienced working with first graders! 

As a lifelong educator and advocate for children, Jennifer knows that working on behalf of children and families was what she was born to do! 

Jennifer’s first formal teaching position began in Florida as an Early Childhood teacher and later in New York City (NYC), as a Preschool teacher. While residing in NYC, Jennifer held management positions with a number of educational, public health and advocacy organizations. 

Working with the notable Medical Health and Research Association’s Infant-Child Health Assessment Program (I-CHAP) was a significant and memorable position! While at I-CHAP, Jennifer worked as an Assistant Program Director, with administration and Child Find responsibilities throughout the five boroughs of NYC. In this role, Jennifer worked with medical professionals from hospitals and clinics providing guidance on the regulatory requirements and provisions of IDEA. In addition, she facilitated training in developmental screening, conducted child find activities for NYC’s most neediest children and families, while also assisting families with the coordination of and continuation of care and the establishment of medical homes for their children’s special health care needs. 

Jennifer enjoyed working on behalf of children and families within several nonprofit organizations; namely with the Brooklyn Bureau of Community Service as an Early Childhood Director, the Children’s Aid Society as an Administrative Program Director and as a Day Care Supervisor with the West End Intergenerational Residence, a short term housing residence for young mothers and senior citizens experiencing homelessness. 

Since relocating to the Washington, D.C. region, Jennifer worked with the Department of Health and Human Services/Office of Grants Management/Head Start – exclusively with Native American/Alaska Native communities. 

Further, she has been with the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Rehabilitative Services, Monitoring and State Improvement Planning (MSIP) division since February 2009. As a State Lead with MSIP, Jennifer works exclusively with IDEA Part C States, a career choice she continues to enjoy, eleven years later! 

As a State Lead, Jennifer has led and conducted numerous IDEA Part C compliance monitoring visits across the country, sharing her passion for early intervention, imparting guidance on the importance of early intervention, supporting States in their work on the importance of family engagement. Lastly, Jennifer loves her role as a key stakeholder committed to improving results and outcomes for children with disabilities and their families. 

Jennifer earned her master’s degree in policy and administration from Brooklyn College, City University of New York (CUNY), bachelor’s degree in education from Hunter College, CUNY

Aurelio M. Montemayor

Aurelio M. Montemayor, M.Ed., is IDRA’s Family Engagement Coordinator. Currently serving as the professional development team leader for IDRA, he brings extensive experience in working with school personnel, parents and students. His career in education spans four decades and has included teaching at the high school, middle school and elementary school levels. 

Mr. Montemayor received a bachelor’s degree in English and philosophy from St. Edwards University Austin and a master’s degree in bilingual education from Antioch Graduate School of Education in Ohio. 

Mr. Montemayor believes in the power of community engagement for leadership development and effective education. He was the lead developer of IDRA’s Family Leadership in Education model. One sustained effort of the leadership process is with ARISE, a south Texas community organization, where a new Education CAFE (formerly called Community PTA) was organized that epitomizes the IDRA family leadership process. The Education CAFE movement is spreading to other organizations with IDRA’s guidance and support. 

He previously directed the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (I3) program to further develop the PTA Comunitario process and rigorously document and evaluate the successful practice in expansion to 20 campuses in five school districts. In 2017, the name PTA Comunitario was changed to Education CAFE, emphasizing the diversity of communities who are engaged in impacting their public schools. 

Mr. Montemayor currently directs IDRA’s Education CAFE work and, specifically, IDRA’s Texas Education CAFE Network, funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. Through this project, IDRA is establishing a Texas Education CAFE Network of community-based family and educator groups that help inform public education policies and practices related to implementation of the Every Student Succeeds Act. 

Mr. Montemayor was instrumental in co-designing and implementing IDRA’s federally-funded parent information and resource center: Texas IDRA PIRC. The center brought together parents, schools, universities, community organizations and businesses to support under-served student populations. As its director for 12 years, he led in the formalization of its innovative and results-oriented approach to strengthening partnerships between parents and school personnel in serving children, the working relationship between home and school, and enhancing the developmental progress of the children assisted in this program. 

Mr. Montemayor has served on several national boards, including the National PTA, Parents for Public Schools (PPS) and the National Association for Bilingual Education. 

Although currently focusing a major portion of his time on family engagement in education, Mr. Montemayor has done much work in training of trainers for professional development. He has directed programs and conducted staff development for teaching English language learners in key content areas, for assessing and reducing teacher burnout, and creating and supporting professional learning communities among elementary and secondary teachers. 

Mr. Montemayor created the WOW! Workshop on Workshops training and guide, which includes a challenging, highly participatory two-day session that – with a touch of humor – gives practical, researchbased tools for preparing and leading a superb workshop with minimal stress. He has directed efforts to create and support collaborative efforts such as the Texas Latino Education Coalition, the San Antonio Coalition for Educational Excellence, and Parents Bilingual Education. He was lead trainer for 10 years with the Community Education Leadership Project in San Antonio and has conducted leadership training for youth organizations, non-profit groups and civic organizations. 

His administrative roles at IDRA have included acting as the general manager for a project on enhancing the quality of retention of minority teachers and teachers in critical shortage areas, serving as director of IDRA’s training institutes for school administrators, board members and parents, and acting as manager of general education assistance services with the South Central Collaborative for Equity at IDRA, the equity assistance center that served a five-state region. Mr. Montemayor writes regularly for the IDRA Newsletter, has published several collections of essays and is a lead contributor to IDRA’s Classnotes podcast.