Staff Photo: Jason Braverman State School Superintendent John Barge checks out a science lab that Britt Elementary School student Steven Patrick is working on during a visit Tuesday morning to the school. Barge was on hand to congratulate them on winning the inaugural Department of Education Family Friendly Partnership award.
SNELLVILLE -- As far as principals go, you'd be hard-pressed to find an administrator more proud of her school this week than Britt Elementary's Doris Jones.
As well as hosting a veritable who's who entourage of state and local education officials Tuesday morning, Britt Elementary's staff and students were presented with an exclusive honor bestowed upon only two other schools in the entire state.
State Superintendent John Barge presented the school with a commemorative door mat as a symbol of the facility's welcoming attitude toward parents and community members. In addition, he congratulated Jones for Britt's success in winning the inaugural Georgia Department of Education Family-Friendly Partnership Award.
Chosen as one of three in the state for representing the best in customer service among its peers, Barge said Britt succeeded by having a welcoming staff, comfortable waiting areas, clear signage and engaging student work throughout the building; an easy-to-navigate website and forging partnerships with parents; and providing a unique, engaging and innovative program that is successful in reaching all families in the school.
In short, Barge said, Britt Elementary is a "model for the entire state on how to engage families and make parents feel welcome the moment they walk in the door. We must find more ways to get parents involved in the education of their children, whether it's online or in person."
As part of the selection process, each school received phone calls and visits from "parents" looking for information or assistance. They also had a walk-through by department staff members, who conducted interviews with school workers, parents, students and community members.
In addition to the two other schools (in South Georgia) named as Family Friendly facilities, Snellville Middle was honored as a finalist.
Jones said being named as one of the Family-Friendly Schools was "a great honor for us, because it was good to know he was recognizing the great work of our faculty, staff and the whole community."
She said the students were pretty pumped about it too.
"They were very excited," Jones said. "They knew he was coming, and when he arrived, each student (all 540 of them) was there, welcoming him and listening to what he had to say. The children were very receptive."
Jones said students at the school showed Barge that same welcoming attitude for which the staff is now famous. She said Britt Elementary staff always aim for good customer service when it comes to parents.
"It's good to seek ways where you can invite parents in and make them a part of the school and your learning environment ... building relationships one at a time," Jones said. "A big part of that is having a good staff that cares. When the community can tell you care and that the welcoming spirit is genuine, they will open up."
Luann Hammami, a teacher who works in the school's parent center, said she was "grateful" for the accolade.
"The parent center and the school in general seem to connect the city," Hammami said.
Hammami and two volunteers in the center meet with students and parents throughout the day and on Thursday evenings to help tutor and assist. They also have a library of supplemental materials that help children with reading, writing and math.
Jones said the parent center is a big part of the school's mission.
Added Jones: "It's one more aspect of this school that lets the community know we're all in this together."