State School Superintendent John Barge, left, and Shiloh Middle Principal Eli Welch hold up a rug that Barge presented Welch on Friday for Shiloh being honored as a Georgia Department of Education Family-Friendly Partnership School. (Staff Photo: Keith Farner)
SNELLVILLE — When Eli Welch looked down at the gift John Barge presented him on Friday, it was almost too good to be true.
“This rug looks so good,” said Welch, the principal of Shiloh Middle, “I don’t know if I want to walk on it.”
The bright red rug and a plaque were presented by Barge, the State School Superintendent, to Welch after the school received the Georgia Department of Education’s Family-Friendly Partnership School Award, which was first announced in May. Barge said Shiloh, the only middle school, and four other schools were honored for customer service for families, on the phone, at the front office and on its web site.
“I like to go any place that’s friendly,” Gwinnett County Public Schools Superintendent/CEO J. Alvin Wilbanks said. “The Shiloh community has always been a friendly place to visit. Really, it’s an award for the whole community.”
The award was presented in the school’s gym before a crowd of students, teachers, parents, school board members and senior staff at GCPS. The DOE presents the award as part of an effort to get Title 1 schools to involve parents.
The school was judged by mock parents who visited the school, or made a phone call looking for information. It was judged in three categories: physical environment, personal contact and communication.
The school also received a walk-through by DOE staff members who conducted interviews with school workers, parents, students, and community members.
Some of the highlights of Shiloh’s community outreach are parent observation for one class or the entire day, a one-on-one parent orientation and emails and newsletters sent home in English, Spanish, Bosnian and Serbian. School officials also sent home resources, and allowed academic at-risk students the ability to check out laptop computers. Those laptops, and eyeglasses, are donated through partnerships with businesses to provide services to families.
Welch also applauded parent groups, such as the Parent, Teacher, Student Association, Shiloh Dads, Mothers of Middle Schoolers, or “MOMS,” which are regularly invited to participate in informal chats about school issues.
“That’s the kind of customer service that helped get Shiloh Middle this award,” Barge said.
Other schools honored with the award were at Cherokee County, Gainesville City, and Glynn County school districts. Snellville Middle and Shiloh High were honored as finalists.