For School Leaders: Retention Tips for Kicking Off the School Year

The beginning of the school year is a hectic time for school administrators—we all know that! So, in the midst of all the craziness, we’d like to share a few tips for help you stay focused on the all-important goal of retaining students and families at your school.

1. Be visible

Be the face of quality customer service you expect from all your school staff! Some ideas:

  • Greet students and parents at the entrance every morning you can.
  • Stop into the lunch room multiple times a week to talk with students.
  • Be outside at dismissal to speak with parents, ensure the safety of the children, and monitor the school dismissal process.
  • Attend beginning of the year parent group meetings.
  • Visit each classroom on the first day of school to welcome students.
  • Send an email home to all parents on the first day of school to recap some of the day’s highlights, share about upcoming events, and remind them how to contact appropriate parties when issues arise.

2. Reach out to new families in the first week of school

Enlist school board and parent organization heads and ask them to call new families throughout the first week of school to answer questions new families may have, invite them to the first community event of the year, and relay any issues the families are having back to administration.

3. Acknowledge returning families in a formal way

Returning and long-term families are often an underrecognized group because administration teams spend more time recruiting new families and often fail to recognize when current families have soured on the school and are starting to look at other options.

Here are some suggestions for helping these families feel valued:

  • Give credit to those families that are continuously engaged with the school through either a recorded message or formal thank you letter you send out the first week of school.
  • Highlight the contributions of your parent groups from the past school year and express how their support is vital to the inner workings of the school and community.
  • Personally call your school board members prior to the first meeting to welcome them back and see what issues they feel need to be discussed and studied throughout the upcoming year.

4. Schedule a community event the first or second week of school

  • These events can be simple in nature (doughnut breakfast for parents right after drop-off or a pizza night for families).
  • Ask all administration and teachers to be present when possible and keep events casual in nature (no formal programming).
  • Task a staff member to take pictures in the first few days of school and play a slide show of the opening week(s) of school.

5. Help staff participate in the student retention process

While faculty members are always busy, it is essential for them to understand the role they play in student and family retention. Asking them to send a brief, positive email home not only establishes lines of communication, but helps paint them in a positive light with parents which can impact future interactions in a positive fashion.

More ideas:

  • Explain the role staff can and must play in retaining families.
  • Invite staff to attend events when they can and be very clear about what events are mandatory for attendance.
  • Ask teachers to send a positive affirmation email home in the first two weeks of school for each of their students (avg. 3 emails per day) to communicate positivity with parents and open lines of communication.