Family Partnership

Family Partnership

At the heart of our approach to family partnership is the belief that students thrive when our community extends beyond the school’s walls and the formal school day. Harlem Academy views families as critical partners, and parents participate actively in the life of the school.


Shared goals are established during admissions, formalized during the first weeks of school, and reinforced through our intentional use of common language.

Orientation brings our school community together to ensure a smooth transition into the upcoming school year by reviewing systems and communication as well as best practices to support a productive and successful school year for all students.

Fall meetings are a chance to learn more about grade-specific curricula in the academic subjects and advisory and begin planning for grade-level family volunteer projects.

Common language codified in our community pillars, school creed, and baseline habits ensures families can connect to and reinforce the same high expectations at home. Read our article on shared language published in Educational Leadership.

A Family Handbook outlines expectations for both academic and community contribution, family partnership, and overall school policies


Throughout the year, we share announcements about school events, each student’s development, and ways to get involved.


Parent conferences are required for every family in October and January. Conferences focus on the child holistically, highlighting what s/he does well, areas for growth, and how families can best partner in realizing goals.

Merit updates regarding positive behaviors and areas for growth are shared with families at least weekly so that we are able to partner closely in reinforcing strong habits for success.

Schoology is a password-protected website used for all families to access resources, the calendar, and class-related updates. It is also used to share homework, curricular documents, and grades.


The Weeks Ahead email newsletter is sent to all families as a primary source for event information, community resources, volunteer opportunities, pictures from recent events, tips from the school counselor, and more.

Social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram) offers updates and photos showing daily life at Harlem Academy as well as trips and special events.


Harlem Academy is invested not only in sharing information with parents, but in listening to parent feedback as equal partners in students’ educational journey.

An annual family survey solicits feedback on a wide range of issues, including an assessment of the school’s work developing core academic and character habits, interaction with staff, family partnership, communications, and overall effectiveness at realizing the mission.

Coffee Connections bring families and school leaders together for a monthly event that combines informal conversation and a targeted discussion. Administrators typically give a short presentation to frame a collaborative discussion around an issue that is important to the school. Each meeting ends with “Questions for the Head,” leaving time to address questions that may not connect to the topic discussed. Read more about Harlem Academy’s approach in this article published in Principal Leadership.

Office hours provide dedicated time each week for families to speak with Head of School Vinny Dotoli regarding any questions or concerns.

A comment box at the front desk allows families to anonymously share any questions or concerns for individual follow up or discussion at the next Coffee Connection.


We offer many volunteer opportunities and expect that families will contribute in ways that work for them.

Class officers at each grade level take leadership coordinating social events, sharing resources, and building community. They serve as the go-to person when it comes to class communications and events. 

First-year buddies are returning families who volunteer to welcome new families to the Harlem Academy community. Through phone calls, emails, and meetings, they make themselves available to answer questions and create connections. 

Schoolwide events are prime opportunities for families to volunteer their time and add their personal touch. This may include setting up, painting faces, contributing food to a potluck meal, etc. These events are a community effort made possible by the contributions of volunteers. 

Trip chaperones join their class on trips throughout the year, actively participating in the hands-on learning experiences that their students enjoy. This includes our longer middle-school trips, when some families spend two nights with us at the Princeton Blairstown Center and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 

Ad-hoc opportunities arise throughout the year. Beyond the opportunities listed here, we frequently ask families to help with projects behind the scenes, including stuffing envelopes, answering questions from prospective families, signing holiday cards, and more. No matter what the task may be, we are always grateful for the willingness of our families to step in and help out to support the program.


We take joy in celebrating students’ accomplishments and gathering as a community. Below are some of our favorite events.


Celebrations of Learning are events hosted by each class several times per year, starting in late fall or early winter, to honor and share their work. These gatherings give students an opportunity to invite their family to school to share in the joy of learning and academic progress.

Chess tournaments are hosted on a regular basis on weekend afternoons and are open to students at any grade level who want to test their abilities and try to improve their ranking.

Family Game Nights are opportunities for students to share the games (chess, checkers, mancala, and others) that they have learned in school with their extended family members.


A Halloween Parade is celebrated each year with an afternoon treat and a parade around the neighborhood.

The Thanksgiving Feast is a lower school tradition where each classroom is set up with desks forming one large table and a bounty of healthy, delicious food is prepared by families.

Staff Appreciation Lunch is hosted by graduating eighth-grade families for all teachers and serves as a wonderful opportunity to celebrate their combined efforts in getting our students to this very important milestone.

Field and Family Day takes place on the second to last day of school each spring. Students, families, and teachers spend the morning in the park, sharing a variety of fun, cooperative challenges, as well as time for friendship and reflection on the year.

Graduation takes place on the last day of school. During the ceremony, each graduating student shares a brief message about how one of their classmates lived up to the school creed.