April 20, 2015
For many school systems the task of monitoring parent participation in school activities is difficult and time-consuming. It's a problem Hartford parent and long-time education advocate Lillian Arciniegas set out to solve. Arciniegas is the creator of Parent Engagement Tracker, a service that provides technology-based solutions to help school staff and busy parents work together to boost student and school success.
As the 2015 Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Center InnovateHer Challenge local winner and University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center client, Arciniegas advances to a national SBA semi-final round for a chance to enter the final competition in Washington, D.C. during National Small Business Week, May 4 – 8, 2015. If selected as a finalist, she will pitch Parent Engagement Tracker to a panel of judges to win her share of $30,000 in prize money.
The InnovateHer Challenge was hosted by the Connecticut Small Business Administration (SBA) Women’s Business Centers at the Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford (Hartford) and the Women’s Business Development Council (Stamford). The contest required applicants (both women and men) to submit by March 16, 2015, a business plan and application for products or services that 1) have a measurable impact on the lives of women and families, 2) have the potential for commercialization, and 3) fill a need in the marketplace. Arciniegas was recently announced the local winner at the Connecticut State Capitol.
Using computer, cell phone or other mobile devices Parent Engagement Tracker connects teachers, school administrators and parents for easier information-sharing. Parents can stay up to date with their child’s progress, and schools can develop a convenient ongoing relationship with parents. Parent Engagement Tracker gives schools and school districts the ability to better monitor and measure parent engagement. That’s particularly important because schools are now required by federal law, under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) Title 1 Parental Involvement Section 1118 to document and report these statistics.
Parent Engagement Tracker is currently being used in Bloomfield and Windham Connecticut school districts. Capitol Region Education Council (CREC) schools are slated to come online beginning Fall 2015.
When asked how she came up with the idea, Arciniegas replied, "I've been going to PTO meetings, and been involved with my kids' schools for years. Each event had a sign-in sheet. I always wondered what happened as a result of "signing-in" and what did it matter? After a while, I began asking questions and figured there's got to be a better way of doing this."
Two years ago, she put her idea for Parent Engagement Tracker into action, and began development. She contacted the Entrepreneurial Center at the University of Hartford in December of 2014 for general business counseling, and returned in March 2015 to enroll in the Hartford Small Business Technical Assistance Program.
Milena Erwin, the Entrepreneurial Center's Women's Business Center Program Manager, remarked, " Lillian had a unique service, and the passion to see it through. It was really a matter of being a sounding board for her ideas and a counselor offering options to business challenges".
The University of Hartford’s Entrepreneurial Center provides hands-on coaching and business training for new and expanding small businesses, as well as aspiring entrepreneurs, throughout Connecticut. Part of the nationally-renowned Barney School of Business, the Center helps small business owners and employees to gain the business skills needed to succeed in the marketplace through business advising, technical assistance, educational programs, and networking events. For more information, visit www.hartford.edu/ec.