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Can your school be so welcoming, so inviting, and so comfortable that every person who walks through the doors believes they

are about to have an amazing experience?

Douglas Fisher, Nancy Frey, and Ian Pumpian



Why is it important?

Parents and family members must feel welcome in order for them to fully participate in the education of their children. When families feel welcome – they feel like they belong to the school and the school belongs to them. This sense helps parents to become more active in their child’s education. Research has shown that the families who are actively involved with the school, who have built a relationship with teachers and administrators, and who volunteer at least three times in the school year; their children perform significantly higher on tests, have improved attendance and behavior and life skills. Ideas and suggestions obtained during the Red Carpet Treatment will help you and your school to welcome families into the educational system and to create and build family centered policies and compacts that will impact the social and academic outcomes for students through increased family engagement.

Project Appleseed's Six Slices of Family Engagement

What is a Red Carpet Treatment?

The Red Carpet Treatment tool is our family friendly walk through process and it is part of the Family Engagement Toolbox. The Red Carpet Treatment is an opportunity to meet as a team in order to identify ways in which the school can create a more welcoming environment for families. Parents, including parents of children with disabilities, community members, school board members, educators, and administrators are asked to consider looking at the school through the lenses of all of the families who attend that school. This process can provide you and your school with a lot of great information and ideas. Red Carpet Treatment will provide ideas and strategies that will make the school more inviting and welcoming to families and community members.


What is the Red-Carpet Treatment?

  • The action team will coordinate a tour of your school.

  • The team will look at the elements of the school that let parents and community members know they are welcomed partners in the school

  • Based on their observations, the team will complete a Red Carpet Commendation/Recommendation Form highlighting the welcoming aspects of your school.


What is the purpose of the Red-Carpet Treatment?

Each school has different goals it hopes to achieve as a result of this walk-through. Purposes could include the following: examining how inviting the school appears to its diverse community, looking at strategies that can be employed to make the school more inviting to the families and community, and trying to increase parent involvement.The Physical Environment: parking areas, classrooms, lobby, hallways, etc. School-wide Practices & Policies: interview with principal/administrative staff. Welcoming School Staff: observations in the main office, hallways, and places open to 
the public; listen and look for inviting friendly tones. Written Materials: newsletters, parent handbook, flyers, and other materials distributed 
by the school. Web sites and telephone message lines are also included, if applicable.

Who is involved?

A team of people conduct the Red-Carpet Treatment. The team should include parents/family members, school staff, a school board member, community, or a business representative. It is important that parents make up the majority of the team. (If there are 2-3 school staff participating there should be 4-6 parents/family members!). A “parent” is defined as someone whose only connection with the school is that they have a child who attends that school! (An employee of a school might also be a parent of a child in that school – but for this process, they would be considered school staff.)


The Red-Carpet Treatment is most effective when there are between 6 and 10 members participating. This will ensure a variety of input and ideas. It is important to consider the demographics of your school and include all families that are represented in the school population. Examples include: a parent new to the district/school, an English Learner parent, a parent of a kindergarten student, Reach out and involve the school custodian, a secretary, a bus driver, a cafeteria worker, a neighbor, a community leader, and/or others who represent the various cultures in your school community. If you can, use the services of a facilitator to assist in the coordination of the team.

Red Carpet Procedure

A Red-Carpet Treatment can take between 90 minutes and 2 hours to conduct depending on the size of the school and team. The discussion between all participants is the key to the success of the Red-Carpet Treatment process! The facilitator should ensure that everyone feels comfortable and engaged in this process. Here are the easy steps for facilitating a successful Red-Carpet Treatment:

Facilitator and Action Team will do the following:

  1. Plan and schedule the walk-through with a school contact person.

  2. Prepare walk-through packets for each team member.

  3. Select the participants for the walk-through.

  4. Send the names to the principal/principal.

  5. Participants meet and Introductions are made (nametags always a great idea!)

  6. Have the principal explain their vision/mission for family engagement at their school and how the Red-Carpet Treatment might help.

  7. Divide the participants into component teams.

  8. Distribute checklist packet.

  9. Prior to the start of each checklist allow some time for participants to read through and consider their responses to the information on the checklist.

  10. Review the participant Instructions with the team.

  11. Facilitate the briefing, walk-through, and debriefing.

  12. Have the team identify commendations/recommendations based upon their tour and discussion.

  13. Write a summary of the team’s observations, commendations, and recommendations.

  14. Send the walk-through summary to the school principal.

  15. Follow-up with the school to discuss next steps.  

School is asked to do the following before the Walk -Through:

  1. Provide a meeting room large enough for your team members.

  2. Provide a space for each of the four component teams to meet and talk separately. This could be the same room as #1 with teams moving to separate corners.

  3. Provide the name of the administrator who will be interviewed.

  4. Provide a map of the school.

  5. Collect samples of all written material sent to parents/families from your school, i.e., a parent/student handbook, two recent newsletters, a student directly, a packet of materials for new students and families.

  6. Provide all telephone numbers, including message lines, through which families and community members can contact the school. A team member will call those numbers before the actual walk-through.

  7. Provide any information needed to access your web site, if available.

  8. In order to expedite the walk-through process, send the information listed above to the action team contact person at least one week prior to your walk-through.


Where to start?

Consider identifying a couple of items that could be done easily but also set a larger goal/plan of action for implementation. Be sure to include time frames and the person responsible for completing any action. After the Red-Carpet Treatment checklists have been completed and the team has identified some next steps – it is important to share the information collected. The facilitator of the Red-Carpet Treatment should use the Red-Carpet Treatment report form to organize the information. Share the report with school staff, families, your school board, and community members.


The Fairfax (Virginia) County Public Schools’ Parenting Education Center (PEC) developed the Red-Carpet Treatment process as the “Welcoming Atmosphere Walk Through” to address schools’ desire to increase parent involvement. Project Appleseed adapted the Walk Through form editions developed by Fairfax County Public Schools, the Institute for Responsive Education (IRE) and the South Dakota Department of Education for use in any school.

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