Engagement MATtERS Arkansas

Engagement updates for the families, schools and communities of Arkansas 

August 2023

Summer Family and Commmunity
Engagement in Arkansas

Farmington's Agriculture and FFA Program Shines On! 

Farmington School District has a unique approach to its agriculture program. Secondary students can opt into this program through career and technical education credits. Even primary-aged children can participate through the local 4-H club. In partnership with Future Farmers of America's local chapter, the district provides expertise on livestock showmanship, teaching Arkansas Youth skills like work ethic, budgeting, networking, leadership, and career guidance opportunities in the livestock show business.

The department help students prepare for showcases across the state. Participation in these showcases further Farmington future farmers' entrepreneurship and business endeavors. For example, the Washington County Fair, the largest county fair in the state, hosts livestock competitions and auctions for these students. Local students have the ability to sell their livestock for prime donations for the expenses of raising the animals and funds for future projects in agriculture. 

After last year's county fair, over $90,000 were donated to Farmington Students. But, the competitions don't stop there. Farmington students have won big at the yearly Arkansas Youth Expos and Arkansas State Fair. Last year, Farmington student Chloe Mabry, won grand prizes at the Youth Expo, State Fair, and competed nationally.

This summer, district administration and the agriculture program hosted the 1st Annual "Swine Show Clinic." This clinic featured trained staffers and professionals in the Arkansas cattle show business. Beyond the needs of Farmington students, 67 individuals (students, parents, and community members) from around the state were invited to learn animal education, showmanship methods, daily care tips, and other life skills to the attendees. 

Like many others, Farmington School District is leading the way to engage students with rural education. Programs like this are helping to increase SQSS scores and encouraging more students to foster life skills beyond school. With the phrase #cardstudentsareworthit (Cardinals are the high school's mascot), the district plans to continue pursuing excellence for Arkansas students through more show clinics and agriculture outreach.

Summer Reading Program Sharpens Students LEarning

Elaine Manning, an educator with twenty plus year in the classroom, has led El Dorado's summer reading program for over five years. The program emerged from a goal to tackle potential summer literacy learning loss. As a part of the district's literacy initiatives and as a Successful Outcomes for Arkansas Readers (SOAR) grantee, Literacy Chair Jeannie Strother shared that El Dorado's literacy program wants to continue "building a culture of reading, creating community collaboration, sharpening students focus, and strengthening literacy instruction." 

Students entering grades 1st through 6th had the opportunity to attend the eight summer sessions that tested their understanding of the books at the campus of Retta Brown Elementary. Beyond testing in the Accelerated Reader program, the attendees could receive help with all the books they brought that day. El Dorado partnered with the Union County Public Library System to provide grade-appropriate books for participating students.

Once parents brought students to the school campus library, students were greeted by Ms. Manning and certified volunteers trained by the district. 

New this year, the ESD reading program included Bingo Cards with squares denoting different genres and themes to help students pick books. Donated rewards were given to students for each bingo they received. Students who received stamps in all sections will be rewarded with a memorable field trip for their hard work early this semester.

Roughly 60 students were at each session, refining their reading skills. Manning's staff encouraged students to challenge themselves to read beyond their current reading level. 

The summer AR program is one of many literacy events across the El Dorado district. Others include Read for the Record, Spring Book Break, Arkansas Reads One, and Read Across America. In addition, each school hosts several literacy events for students and families in the fall and spring semesters.

arkansas innovation

Update on Batesville Community School Program

Ribbon Cutting of Batesville's Parent Resource Center

The DESE Engagement Unit was invited to the Grand Opening of the Hub: Pioneer Family Resource Center. We learned more about the vision for the center within the Batesville School District's Community School Model Program.

Superintendent Dr. Michael Hester's strategic vision is to always consider Students First in everything the district decides to do. In agreement with the board, the district's goals remain to: Increase Student Growth & Achievement, Build a Safe, Supportive, Collaborative Culture, Ensure Effective Teaching in Every Classroom, Attract & Retain High-Quality Staff, Increase Parent & Family Engagement, and Maintain Effective Facilities & Operations.

The Hub was a positive move to rework the district's physical footprint to provide more accessibility to families and the community hoping to increase partnerships and efficiency within the city of Batesville. The resource center shares space with the community Post Office.

In the large-scale view for Family and Community Engagement, the Hub also offers assistance in student registration, home visiting, a food pantry with a functional kitchen, a clothing closet, family and support service resources and assistance, training and technology centers, workforce development and ESOL and Migrant Multicultural Center. One of the emphasis was to be a pillar for Adult Education. Asst. Superintendent Jennifer Douglas shared that the district can assist in the interview process and further career exploration. 

The most significant portion of the center rests with the Home Visiting Network. Fully staffed with 14 members, the district works with community families by supplying high-quality support for birth to Kindergarten children. Participating families receive free books, diapers, educational kits, and many other services from the district. With the rampant focus on early learning, the school district hopes to become a standard for other centers throughout the state.

Of course, the space is large enough to host many Family and Community Engagement events for the schools in Batesville. But, the hope is for the center to be a community space for other partners to host opportunities for students, families, and the surrounding communities. In October of this year, the district will be hosting a Community School District Conference to share more about the efforts of their Community School program successes and how they can continue to improve positive student success.

DESE Engagement Unit

Over the summer, the DESE Engagement Unit continued to share the positive outcomes that Family and Community Engagement can bring.

We toured the state to speak with administrators and district personnel to creatively explore innovation with engagement strategies, helping them remember to be a part of the community to foster reciprocal relationships. 

At ADE Summit, we presented four engagement panels building upon our strengths of Plan, Do, Check, Who’s on Your Team?, Engaging and Supporting Military Families, and highlighting the success stories of Bright Futures Benton and the Benton School District. We would like to thank our expert panelists for their time and knowledge: Barbara Garner of Crossett, David Stepp of Elkins, Lindsey Ketchum of Nemo Vista, Jenny Barber of Russellville, Shameka Christon of Benton, Shara Rickett of Benton, Sydney Kenward of LISA Academy, Sherry Breckenridge of Wynne, Jessica Saum of Cabot, Emily Taylor of Cabot and Terri Williams of Little Rock Air Force Base.

One of our goals for the upcoming school year is to examine the School-Families-Community Partnership Model more closely. With today's outlook, we all must maximize our spheres of influence. The internal sphere is the team that you depend on at the districts. A quality internal sphere has a clear vision and plans for accomplishing tasks toward success. Once internal clarity is attained, sharing the vision with families and the wider community will foster more meaningful partnerships and connections.

Lastly, we encourage state engagement personnel to develop their Ecosystem of Support and work with local, state, and national resources toward positive student success.

For more information on High-Quality Instructional Materials: Please click here

We celebrate our wins this summer and cheer for a positive school year!

dese news nuggets

Families In Transition/families WHO ARE experiencing homelessness 

DESE's homeless coordinator Jessica Hickman reminds schools to document these students as McKinney-Vento-eligible and proactively connect with their school of origin's district liaison for homelessness, helping the originating district document the student's whereabouts. For more information, contact Jessica Hickman at: Jessica.Hickman@ade.arkansas.gov or (501) 683-5428.

If you or someone you know are in need, resources may be available through EveryArkansan. Please feel free to visit their website.

statewide community resource portal serves arkansas families

Don’t forget to check the statewide resource portal for information and resources to help families. Also, if you know of a resource that is not listed, please submit it as an addition to the database: 

Statewide Community Resources Portal - Home (arkansas.gov) 

Office of Learning Services Resources

ACT Testing Waivers

ACT Test Dates 

To order or reorder ACT fee waivers, please visit: http://www.act.org/the-act/supportmaterials 

To apply for the ACT fee waiver program, students must meet the following eligibility requirements:

 Be currently enrolled in high school in the 11th or 12th grade.

 Be testing in the United States, US territories, or Puerto Rico. Meet one or more of the indicators of economic need listed below:

 Enrolled in a federal free or reduced-price lunch program at school, based on US Department of Agriculture (USDA) income levels.

 Enrolled in a program for the economically disadvantaged (for example, a federally funded program such as GEAR UP or Upward Bound). Note: If the student participates in a program, but is not economically disadvantaged, they are not eligible for a fee waiver.

 Resides in a foster home, is a ward of the state, or is homeless.

 Family receives low-income public assistance or lives in federally subsidized public housing.

 Family’s total annual income is at or below USDA levels for free or reduced-price lunches on the USDA Food and Nutrition Service website.

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

A new multifamily skills group has been developed at the UAMS Child Study

Center. This DBT skills group aims to help teens and their parents address concerns related to chronic emotional and behavioral dysregulation. This group does meet in person, but you do not necessarily have to live nearby; some families have traveled 2 hours weekly to attend the group.

Please view the PDF link below for specific information, including contact information, address, dates, times, and a more detailed explanation of what the therapy covers:

Dialectical Behavior Therapy

(Please note that this is not a formal service affiliated with TRIS or ARBEST)—this is entirely separate!

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ParentNotices is a digital resource to use for parent engagement compliance in your school district. The platform is:

Collection includes examples and assistance on:

Schools must communicate information to limited English proficient parents in a language they can understand about any program, service, or activity that is called to the attention of parents who are proficient in English. 

English LEP Parents Fact Sheet

New Accounts with Self-Onboarding


If you have any questions on the usage or Carrie Acrey, carrie.acrey@ade.arkansas.gov