Quarton Elementary was recently named a 2021-2023 School of Excellence by the National PTA. Superintendent Embekka Roberson commemorates the designation during a ceremony Aug. 29.

Quarton Elementary was recently named a 2021-2023 School of Excellence by the National PTA. Superintendent Embekka Roberson commemorates the designation during a ceremony Aug. 29.

Photo provided by Birmingham Public Schools

Quarton Elementary School named a 2021-2023 School of Excellence by the National PTA

By: Mary Genson | Birmingham-Bloomfield Eagle | Published September 21, 2022


BIRMINGHAM — During the pandemic, Quarton Elementary School found that some students, parents and staff missed out on the community-building aspects of education.

Once they collected this data, they worked to make Quarton Elementary School a more community-based environment.

Quarton Elementary School and the Quarton Elementary PTA have been recognized for their efforts in creating an inclusive and welcoming school community.

They are one of three schools in the state — and the only elementary school in the state — to be named a 2021-2023 School of Excellence by the National PTA.

The PTA’s focus was primarily on supporting community members impacted by the pandemic.

“We really focused, particularly with COVID, around that social-emotional piece, because we saw that that was really impacted when kids had to be online, so they had to kind of relearn how to socially engage with others,” Quarton Elementary School Principal Jill Ghiardi-Coignet said.

By enrolling in the National PTA’s School of Excellence program, Quarton Elementary School and the Quarton Elementary PTA made a yearlong commitment to identify and implement an action plan for the improvement of their school.

The basis for the National PTA’s Schools of Excellence program is the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.

These standards were last revised in 2008 and will be updated this fall.

“We were so proud that we had collaborated so much with the staff and that we had actually made such big strides in a short amount of time,” said Jennifer Hansen, who served as Quarton’s PTA president last school year.

Every school that signs up for this program is provided a standard survey with 20 questions ranging from communication, academics, inclusion and more.

“It was really telling when we saw all of the answers. They all pointed to the fact that people were feeling very stressed and disconnected and just out of the loop after the past couple of years, so we had a lot of work to do to rebuild that sense of school community,” Hansen said.

Once they retrieved their data, they made their action plan.

“We wanted to address the needs of the students, the needs of the parents and the needs of the staff,” Hansen said. “So we had a variety of things that we did for each to focus on mental health, coping techniques and bringing back a feeling of community and inclusion.”

One simple effort they did to brighten the community’s day was writing positive messages on the sidewalk.

They also collaborated with their social-emotional learning team to send out messages to families about the coping techniques taught to students.

“That way, all of the parents were benefiting from the same lessons that were being taught to the students, and we were translating them to say, ‘Here’s how you can use this at home and here’s how it can help not just kids, but also adults,’” Hansen said.

Hansen also said they wanted to make sure that they were communicating to people in every way possible and making sure that the messaging was consistent, whether it was coming from the principal, the PTA, social media outlets or PTA meetings.

“We wanted everything to get to people in whatever form they needed so no one felt out of the loop and everybody felt that they were welcome,” Hansen said.

To keep people in the loop, they offered all of their meetings on Facebook Live and worked on bringing back community-building activities.

While new students came into the school during the pandemic, the PTA was not able to hold community-building activities to welcome families.

“A lot of our work was focused on reaching out to those parents who had not had these experiences, and making sure that they knew what sort of opportunities were available to them, to their children, and to bring people back together so that they finally have that sense of community within the school that they haven’t gotten a taste of yet,” Hansen said.

So far​​, Quarton Elementary PTA has experienced an increase in PTA membership by 45 families.

In addition to the PTA’s goal of supporting families, they also made efforts to show appreciation to Quarton Elementary’s teachers throughout the year.

They implemented Thankful Thursdays so the PTA could thank the staff every month.

The entire building staff is included in Thankful Thursdays.

The PTA also implemented Wellness Wednesdays to share tips and coping techniques from counseling staff.

“We are lucky enough in our school to have that team where someone’s available for our students every single day, and that was another thing we really wanted to make sure our families were aware of, that they have these resources there every day for their students,” Hansen said.

Hansen said the importance of the partnership between the school and its families is shown through the students’ increased school pride, social confidence and academic accountability.

“All of our activities that our students are benefiting from, it’s all done on a volunteer basis,” she said. “So it requires parent involvement and it requires people to find something that they can do to participate,”

Hansen said she can see the pride on the student’s faces when their parents volunteer.

This year, the PTA has a new president, Laura Markle, who Hansen said is bringing even more community-building activities to the calendar along with an energized team of parents.