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Georgia State Superintendent of Schools Richard Woods presents GCA Head of School Matt Arkin with the Parent Engagement Award.

Written by Jenna Needham

Election day was historic in more ways than one. The U.S. has a new President and it was the first time the state superintendent of schools has visited Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA)!

Helping to debunk a longstanding myth that families of virtual students are not sufficiently engaged in their child’s learning, GCA was recognized by Superintendent Richard Woods for parental engagement as a winner of the Georgia Department of Education’s video contest winner.

“Having strong family engagement is the key to education,” Superintendent Woods said.

Last year, the Georgia Department of Education sponsored a video contest for Parent Engagement Month and the GCA family engagement team was up for the challenge.

“We conduct regular and meaningful engagement with the families of our students,” said Maria Blencowe, GCA’s high school family engagement coordinator, who produced the video. “We’re demonstrating we are a real school just like all of the others in the state of Georgia.”

Maria worked with the rest of her family engagement team, which included Shirley Waldow and Veronica Okpani, as well as social studies teacher Halton Thomson, who often produces videos to incorporate into his lessons.

Georgia Superintendent Richard Woods watches GCA’s winning video.

“Halton just has this great style when it comes to making videos,” Maria said. “I knew once our team was assembled that we could actually win.”

It turns out that Maria was right! GCA won first place for their video, which showcases specific strategies and best practices for parental involvement in student learning. And more importantly, the school is getting the recognition it deserves.

“The fact that we won is amazing! This school has come such a long way,” Maria said. “I’m happy that not just the Georgia Department of Education got to see us but we are receiving recognition throughout the entire state of Georgia!”

GCA won based on the team’s creativity as well as the video’s emphasis on the importance of a parent’s role in their child’s education. In February, the video was shown to a crowd of over 1,200 parents and educators at the 2016 Family Engagement Conference.

In addition to presenting the award to the family engagement team, Superintendent Woods’ first visit also included a tour of the school’s classes and offices, as well as a brief meet-and-greet session with GCA’s Student Advisory Council.

Check out video of the Superintendent’s visit here!

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