ParentNet Unplugged

ParentNet® Unplugged is our blog aimed at engaging parents, educators, and community leaders in frank conversations about theory and practice in the following six areas: 

  • Parent Engagement at Home: How families positively influence children's education and development at home, including how they create effective environments for learning; foster personal attributes such as respect, honesty, discipline, and critical thinking; and help kids become responsible collaborators in their own learning.
  • School-Family Partnerships: How schools, families, and students work successfully together, including ways that schools build trusting, respectful, and caring environments with families; involve parents in the classroom; create effective two-way channels of communication with families; and facilitate ways parents can partner in educating children.
  • Diverse Families: How diversity impacts partnership, including how parents of multiracial, low-income, special-needs, gifted, marginalized, at-risk, or non-college-bound children successfully advocate for themselves and interact with teachers, schools, and each other; ways these parents and children overcome challenges at home and in the community; and school practices that positively support the learning and developmental needs of diverse families and students.
  • Technology: How technology and social media is used to improve partnerships between parents, schools, and communities, including its potential to bridge differences, improve communications, share student progress, respond to parent or school concerns, and increase learning for families, schools, and children.
  • Out-of-School-Time: How after-school programs and services support children's learning and development, including ways hands-on and experiential activities in the arts, sports, and community service bring meaning and passion to children's lives and nurture their future roles as citizens, employees, and parents. 
  • Education Policy: How the latest laws, policychanges, and discussions among our nation's leaders affect parents, schools, communities, and students and how grassroots efforts through local PTA's, PTO's and other parenting groups affect positive improvement in education and student learning.

 Meet Our Bloggers

At school ParentNet Meetings facilitators lead and invite face-to-face conversations with everyone present. At ParentNet® Unplugged, we view our bloggers in much the same way, as facilitators of conversations with our readers. Each blogger brings important expertise, commentary, ideas, and practices to the table. Readers become part of a two-way, respectful conversation! Everyone is a learner.


Rick Ackerly, M.Ed.

AckerlyRick Ackerly is the founder and president of The Genius in Children, whose mission is to change how Americans think about the education of young children. His first book The Genius in Children: Bringing out the Best in Your Child lays out principles of good practice for parents and other educators through stories about children in the process of learning how to become themselves. An educator since 1967, Rick spent thirty-four years as a head of independent schools in four cities across the country. He is currently working with schools through Horizons National and with parents and schools in Decatur, IL. Rick writes for various publications and websites including his blog at The Genius in Children, and speaks to school and parent groups around the country. Rick has a Master's in Education from Harvard University in addition to graduate work at the University of Massachusetts and the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, CA. He has four children, one stepdaughter and six grandchildren. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


Meryl Ain, Ed.D.

AinMeryl's broad experience as a teacher and administrator encompasses every aspect of schools. Her blog, Your Education Doctorseeks to empower parents to better understand and navigate their children's schools with the insider information and useful strategies she has acquired throughout her career. Her mission is to help parents become better advocates for their children and more effective partners with their schools. Through her extensive work with parents and PTA groups, Meryl has a deep understanding of the key role parents play not only in their own children's education, but also in determining the quality of the schools they attend. Meryl has a BA from Queens College, M.A. from Teachers College, Columbia University, and an Ed.D. from Hofstra University. Her articles have appeared in The Huffington Post and Newsday. She has three married sons and three grandchildren, and lives in Long Island, NY. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D.

Steven ConstantinoSteve Constantino is one of the nation's most sought-after thought leaders in the field of family engagement. Presently Superintendent of the Williamsburg-James City County School District in Williamsburg, Virginia, he has traveled the world to raise student achievement through strong family engagement practices, appeared at hundreds of conferences, and worked with schools and districts in 40 states. Steve's success in the practical application of family engagement research has appeared in publications like Education Week and his books include 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement (2008) and Engaging All Families: Creating a Positive School Culture by Putting Research into Practice (2003). Steve is committed to raising awareness of family engagement and helping educators implement successful engagement practices that lead to achievement for all students. Follow him on Twitter.


Maria Chesley Fisk, Ph.D.

Maria Chesley Fisk, Ph.D.Maria is an educator and author of Teach Your Kids to Think: Simple Tools You Can Use Every Day. She is co-founder of ParentSquare, a private online communication system for schools and their families. Maria affirms the importance of families and aims to translate educational and psychological research for today’s students, parents, and teachers. She has served as an elementary and English Language Learner teacher, administrator, teacher trainer, mentor to school leaders, liaison between school districts and the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction, and parent educator. Maria earned a distinguished bachelor's degree in psychology at the University of Virginia, a Masters in preschool through middle school education at Marymount University, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Education at the University of Michigan. She loves living in her adopted home, Santa Barbara, California, with her husband, two boisterous boys, and a bit of dust. Visit her website ThinkParenting, and follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


Connie Grier, M.Ed.

GrierConnie has been professionally engaged in instruction and educational management in public schools for more than 20 years. She is known as a student-focused leader with a strong commitment to social justice, parental engagement, relationship building, and the development of students and staff. She has  been praised as a "great communicator who advocates for what's RIGHT as opposed to what's easy." As an Assistant Principal, collaborating with the families of her students for academic success and securing needed supports for her school community are seen by her as non-negotiable activities. She provides services to families in several school districts through her non-profit organization, The RESPECT Alliance, an organization devoted to bringing the "respect" back to interactions between home and school and to increasing parental advocacy. Connie is currently in the dissertation stage of her doctoral degree, focusing on Parent/Family Engagement and its impact on the transition from middle school to high school. She is also a Fellow with the Center for Progressive Leadership. Follow her on Twitter.


Paula J. Hillmann Ph.D.

HillmanPaula is founder and president of Advanced Learning Resources, LTD. Her work as an educational psychologist and licensed counselor followed several years as a professor, school administrator, and K-8 teacher. Working with Wisconsin schools and families, her focus is on fostering the academic, social, and emotional growth of gifted, talented, and creative children and adolescents. She is an advocacy coach for parents and works with schools to develop programs for advanced learners. Paula has a Ph.D. in Educational Psychology [cognition, human development, and school administration]; M.S. in Educational Psychology [giftedness and creativity]; and a B.S. in Child Development and Family Studies from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her post-doctoral work has focused on counseling needs for children and their families, bringing research from the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Center for Healthy Minds into schools, and building Communities of Learning and Practice between schools and homes. She and her husband have two creatively gifted children and live in the Milwaukee, Wisconsin area. Contact her through Advanced Learning Resources.


Josette Luvmour, Ph.D.

LuvmourJosette is a developmentalist, consultant, and educator who specializes in child development, adult development, and sustainable family relationships. She serves as Director of Family and Professional Development at Summa Institute, a nonprofit organization that provides Natural Learning Relationships™ programs to students, families, and professionals. In addition to her 26-year consulting practice at Luvmour Consulting, LLC., she is the author of five books and numerous journal articles and chapters that focus on building positive relationships with children. Josette has a Ph.D. from Fielding Graduate University where she specialized in the developmental experiences of adults meeting children's developmental imperatives. She is well versed in humanistic and existential psychology, interpersonal neurobiology, and dynamic family relationships. Josette lives in Portland, Oregon with her husband of 32 years and close to their children and grandchildren.


Jody McVittie, M.D.

McVittieJody McVittie is the Executive Director and co-founder of Sound Discipline, a non-profit organization dedicated to teaching people to do the right thing - even when no one is looking. Sound Discipline uses research-based methods to help schools, families, and communities eliminate race bias in discipline and foster academic excellence, citizenship, equity, and democracy in the state of Washington. Jody is a passionate advocate for working together to help all students and families develop skills to flourish in civil society and to help democratic communities thrive. She is a family physician (not currently practicing), a life coach, and the mother of three young adults who have been some of her best teachers. She lives in Seattle and enjoys hiking, rowing and spending time with the chickens in her garden. Jody has an M.D. from Case Western Reserve University and a B.S. in Biology from Stanford University. Visit Jody's website at Encouraging Solutions and the Sound Discipline parenting blog. Follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


Stephen Murphy-Shigematsu, Ed.D.

Murphy-ShigematsuStephen is a psychologist whose primary interests are in how parents and children of diverse families overcome challenges at home and in the community. He is the author of a blog on multicultural families as well as numerous articles. His books include, Multicultural Encounters, in which he writes stories of his work with clients of diverse cultural backgrounds, and "Half" is Whole, narratives of identity development. Stephen is a consulting professor at Stanford University in the School of Medicine and Center for Comparative Studies in Race and Ethnicity, as well as faculty at Fielding Graduate University. He teaches parenting at Stanford Continuing Studies and Alliant University. He has an Ed.D. in Counseling and Consulting Psychology from Harvard University, was professor at the University of Tokyo, and a Fulbright scholar and APA fellow. Stephen is a father to two teenage boys and lives in Palo Alto, California. Follow him on Twitter or Facebook.


Marilyn Price-Mitchell, Ph.D.

Price-MitchellMarilyn is co-founder and president of the National ParentNet Association and a long-time advocate for building family-school-community partnerships. As a developmental psychologist and researcher, her primary interests are in positive youth development and youth civic engagement. She is the author of Roots of Action, where she examines the underlying foundations of growth - the experiences and relationships that help young people discover purpose, meaning, initiative, critical thinking, empathy, and other internal strengths. She also writes for Psychology Today and A Hopeful Sign. Marilyn is a Fellow in the Institute for Social Innovation at Fielding Graduate University where she oversees research for an out-of-school-time program that serves at-risk youth. She has a Ph.D. in Human Development and a M.A. in Human and Organizational Systems from Fielding and a B.A. in sociology from the University of Michigan. Marilyn is a mother or stepparent to six grown children and lives in Bainbridge Island, Washington. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


Joni Samples, Ed.D.

SamplesJoni is Chief Academic Officer for Family Friendly Schools and the author of six books on parent/school connections. An internationally known speaker on Family Engagement, her workshops and coaching have impacted hundreds of schools and families. The Parent Playbook series provides parents with fun, easy activities to help with learning at home. Her books are recommended by teachers because the activities are matched to the National Core Standards. As a career educator, Joni has a depth of experience in curriculum development, teaching, and administration. Beginning as a teacher's aide, she has been a regular and special education teacher, administrator, and finally superintendent of schools. She also holds an Ed.D. in Curriculum and Instruction, an M.A. in education, and a Bachelor of Science degree. She has four children and five grandchildren. Joni has recently moved the Family Friendly Schools offices as well as her educational publishing house, Engage Press, to her home town of Chico, California. Contact her through Family Friendly Schools. 


Myrdin Thompson, M.A.

Myrdin Thompson-2Myrdin has been a Louisville public school parent, volunteer & advocate for building healthy family and school partnerships since 2002. She is the Regional Director/Central States for the National Family Engagement Alliance and the author of Roots and Wings, where she examines how education policy issues at the federal, state, and local level impact family and students' educational experiences and why families need to be more actively involved in these matters. Recognized in 2011 by the White House as a Champions of Change for her advocacy efforts, is currently an active participant in Parenting magazine's Mom Congress as the 2010 Delegate for Kentucky, and volunteers actively in her community as well as for the United Nations Foundation Shot@Life campaign. Myrdin has a M.A. in Renaissance Drama (Shakespeare) from CSU, Fullerton. Myrdin is a mother of three children and lives in Louisville, Kentucky. Follow her on Twitter or Facebook.


Ryan M. Tracy, Th.M. 

Ryan TracyRyan is the Tennessee Family Engagement Manager for Stand for Children, a grassroots national advocacy organization. A community organizer at heart, Ryan works with parents, teachers, and community leaders on educational policies in Tennessee. Ryan brings his theological training in social justice movements to his work with Family Engagement. His interpersonal insights and organizing knowledge help him consider the intellectual, social, and psychological aspects of child development that bridge the gap between home, school, and community for low-income families. As a member of Stand for Children's National team, Ryan designs and implements family engagement programs, bringing his expertise to the organization's 10-week program called Stand UP (University for Parents) which focuses on curriculum of the home and school.  Ryan has a Master of Theology from Princeton Theological Seminary, a Master of Divinity from Mercer University, and a Communication Arts Degree from Georgetown College, Georgetown, KY.  A resident of Memphis, TN, you can follow Ryan on Twitter.



Want to be a Guest Blogger?

We welcome guest blog submissions by parent leaders, educators, psychologists, and others who are committed to building successful family-school-community partnerships. Your article must focus on one or more of the six areas listed above.  Please contact us with your proposed article idea and tell us about your background in family engagement. If accepted, we will provide directions via return email on how to submit your article.



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