Meet Jeannie Infante, Inwood Academy’s Family and Community Engagement Associate Director

Jeannie Infante began her career as a teacher and worked as a Community Director at a charter school before joining the Inwood Academy team in the spring. She received her undergraduate degree in Political Science at the City University of New York City College and a Master’s in Public Administration from John Jay College of Criminal Justice. Jeannie was raised in Inwood and she and her husband have one daughter and are expecting a son any day now.

Q. What excites you most about Inwood Academy’s mission?

It’s how we are preparing students for both life beyond high school and after college that excites me most about Inwood Academy’s mission. If we want students be to be happy and successful in life, we must educate the entire child—the cognitive as well as the social and emotional skills. With a dedicated staff, committed students, and caring parents, the school has built a strong foundation to do just that; help students achieve academic success and to empower them within their community—preparing them for college and life.

Q. How do you plan to build a more welcoming school environment for parents this year?

Before I joined Inwood Academy, the school had established many ways in which they encouraged families to participate in school activities. Also, last year the Parent Council enabled great communication between families and the school and I plan to build on what they already put in place.

I am dedicated to establishing authentic relationships with families which involve a three-part process. First, I’ll learn where students and their families live, work, go to church, eat, and play. The second part involves assessing the needs of our families. Finally, I’ll use this information to create opportunities that are relevant to parents, such as coming to the school and volunteering, supporting academic work within a classroom or at home, obtaining services, and/or attending events.

Q. Is it the role of the school to help parents be more involved in their children’s education?

Yes. Children receive powerful messages from strong family relationships between family and school. That’s why schools must develop ways to collaborate with families. We are calling on every family to participate in their child’s education and become role models by volunteering at the school or within the community. I’m here to facilitate their involvement. I encourage all parents to go to Inwood Academy’s website and download the calendar for the Middle School and High School and check the online calendar regularly.

Q. What type of workshops will you offer to parents?

This year we are going to offer various workshops and the exact topics will be determined once we survey parents to assess their needs. However, we have our first set of workshops for the middle school and high school on September 26 at 6:00 p.m. Details will be made available on our website.

Q. How can community partners become part of the school’s family involvement program?

Partnerships in education enhance and improve the quality of education, meeting the needs of students and educators. Community partners understand that schools can’t do it all on their own and can help families feel more connected to their community by providing resources and strengthening school programs.

Q. What are your goals for the future?

I am passionate about making a difference to level the playing field in education, especially for under-resourced schools. My goals are to build on the success of Inwood Academy through the use of traditional and nontraditional approaches to family involvement, as research shows that family involvement strengthens and supports students’ learning and well-being.

Q. What are nontraditional approaches?

Traditional approaches focus on what parents can do to support the school or academic achievement while nontraditional approaches focus on what schools can do to support parents. It’s the parent engagement model where the school and families collaborate; distributing the weight of involvement more evenly between us. That’s why I’m taking the time to get to know our families and working with Parent Council to elicit ideas from parents. What we’ll end up with is parent energy driving the family engagement efforts at the school.

Q. Tell us something about yourself that might surprise us.

When I am not working or spending time with my family I love to connect with nature by engaging in adventurous pursuits like zip-lining and running. I haven’t been able to do any activities lately but I have a few things on my bucket list for next year.

Welcome Families

Welcome new families and welcome back returning families. School officially began this week for all students.

The start of a new school year is such an exciting time to meet new people, reconnect with friends, and reflect on your goals for the coming year. One goal that I am most happy to share with you is our push to have more parent communication between parents, staff, and teachers. It feels like we are going back to our roots of how we started in 2010 as a homegrown charter school. I want the parent buy in that we had and continue to have to be reinvigorated this year.

This year, teachers will reach out to parents more and break down any walls that exist between parents and teachers, which shouldn’t exist but we know sometimes does. Some of the barriers that arise between parents and teachers are previous bad experiences either with the teacher or a parent, language barriers, or age difference when a teacher is very young and they feel insecure speaking to parents.

Christina and Ann Sept 2015

Christina and daughter Anne

When I started teaching, I was timid and nervous when talking to parents. Since that first year, parent-teacher relationships have been important to me, even the hard conversations.

I’m even more sensitive now that I have a daughter entering her first year of school.

We’re going to break down the parent/teacher barriers by providing professional development for staff as well asproviding multiple opportunities for teachers and parents to come together and communicate.

We will have more parent events this year. More fun parent events: a mother daughter spa afternoon, Halloween night, potluck dinners, community service and a variety of other events that will happen each month. In the past, parents sometimes felt that they were not able to go on trips as chaperones and we want to dispel that myth. There will be caps to the number of parent cha perones but we want parents to go on field trips with kids, especially in the middle school but we encourage it in all grades.

I’m encouraged about our Parent Council and welcome Ms. Lourdes Fernandez and Ms. Jhoselyn Almonte as respective heads of our new High School and Middle School Parent Councils. Ms. Nancy Betances, who many of you know and love, is taking on the new role as our Middle School Parent Coordinator.

“I am very happy that we have this Parent Council forum for us” says Ms. Fernandez. We will be meeting every other month and we want you there. The parents who are part of the Parent Council know we can’t do this alone. We need as much help as we can get. We welcome you.” Please join parent Ms. Fernandez and Ms. Almonte, along with Ms. Betances at their parent meetings. For dates, see Parent Council.

I feel that the parent involvement will push us to be better as a school and when kids see their parents involved in the school it provides additional accountability for them. This also means that there’s going to be stronger safety net for the kids.

Christina Reyes
Executive Director