Individual Presentation



Strand #1

Family & Community

Strand #2

Social & Emotional Skills


-"Home" - By providing exceptional customer service to our families and students, we have a higher rate of parent and community involvement which, in turn, improves academic achievement and promotes college- and career-readiness of our students. -"Heart" - We have a staff who is very dedicated to providing for the needs of all of our students and families. Children and parents alike are pleased to enter the building and feel accepted as part of the Cumming Elementary family. All cultures are represented on the Cultures of Cumming wall which instills a sense of pride belonging to our diverse population. With this sense of pride, students are motivated to exhibit exemplary character and are frequently acknowledged through a school wide student recognition program.

Brief Program Description

Cumming ES was one of four schools to be awarded Georgia’s Family Friendly Schools-Partnership Award in 2014. After partnering with the Ritz Carlton Buckhead, our beliefs of the importance of customer service have been further enhanced. Learn how to incorporate the “Gold Standard” in your school by engaging parents with exciting events and motivating them to attend with small incentives.


The Georgia Family-Friendly Partnership Schools Award is an annual award open to all Title I schools in the state of Georgia. This initiative recognizes schools for their exceptional commitment to developing partnerships with families in order to improve student achievement and success. Cumming Elementary School was one of four winners for the 2013-2014 school year. Our population includes a wide range of families including high-poverty, homeless and migrant, and a majority of Spanish speakers. We strive to create a welcoming environment that increases family engagement which, in turn, helps students earn better grades and create a positive vision of their future. We have a dedicated staff that provides great customer service by meeting all the needs of every student. A school wide student recognition and character education program, “Cumming Students are Charming,” encourages students to exhibit positive character traits by providing charm incentives. Parent involvement is a vital part of our School Improvement Plan. We encourage involvement through an initiative known as “Involvement Matters.” Through this initiative, we provide token incentives, strong communication, and respond to parents’ needs identified in surveys. It is our hope that other Title I schools will further enhance their ability to provide welcoming environments, increased parent engagement, and improved academic student achievement. Winners of the Family-Friendly Partnership Award, along with the Ritz Carlton staff, participated in professional development. Cumming Elementary follows the Ritz Carlton’s module of creating and sustaining a welcoming environment. This module contains general service principles, including handling service issues and the following key principles: setting the stage, such as first impressions and personal interactions; workplace manners for customers, including telephone and e-mail etiquette; and showing appreciation to all stakeholders in order to create loyalty and engagement. As a way to support other Title I schools, we would like to provide training focused on enhancing and sustaining welcoming environments for students, parents, and the local community with the overarching goal to improve students’ academic achievement.


Cumming Elementary increased from 41% to 64% free- and reduced-lunch in two years. Despite having the highest poverty rate and the highest ESOL population in Forsyth County Schools, Cumming has made significant gains in both student achievement and parent involvement. Involvement Matters is the school’s parent involvement initiative. This program allows the school to monitor parent engagement in a tangible way. A spreadsheet is updated based on parent involvement. A parent is awarded a token for each involvement opportunity, and when ten tokens have been earned, the parent can trade their collection in for a t-shirt for their child. Since this program began, Cumming has seen a significant increase in the amount of parents who not only come to school, but are actively engaged in their child’s education. The first year of the initiative, thirty-three parent involvement opportunities were offered and 3,578 tokens were distributed. After just one year, these numbers increased resulting in almost 5,000 tokens awarded. Based on feedback from parent surveys and by recording parent involvement data on a spreadsheet for all students in the school, the Parent Involvement Coordinator is able to adjust opportunities to meet the needs of families, thus creating a family-friendly environment that has been recognized by the state of Georgia. One successful parent engagement activity, known as Lunchtime Learning, draws parents into the school in the early afternoon to receive best practices for ensuring their child’s academic success. During the inaugural year, twenty three parents participated. However, by moving the location of the workshop and increasing communication, the following year resulted in significant growth. In 2013-2014, over 100 parents participated in Lunchtime Learning! Both students and parents are excited to earn red tokens. One of the greatest accomplishments of Involvement Matters is that 99.2% of fifth grade students met or exceeded on the Reading CRCT in Spring 2014. Parent involvement truly increases students’ success. Like Cumming Elementary, the Ritz Carlton fosters a work environment where diversity is valued, quality of life is enhanced, individual aspirations are fulfilled, and The Ritz-Carlton Mystique is strengthened. By applying the principles of trust, honesty, respect, integrity and commitment, the organization nurtures and maximizes talent to the benefit of each individual and the company. At The Ritz-Carlton, Ladies and Gentlemen are the most important resource in the service commitment to their guests.

Biographical Sketch

  • Mrs. Pam Pajerski- Pam is the Principal at Cumming Elementary. As a 26 year veteran educator and school executive, she has spent the majority of her career working with at-risk populations. Under her leadership, the team at Cumming Elementary has successfully worked to develop a school that meets the academic, social, and emotional needs of an ever-changing, diverse student population. Pam is very passionate about EVERY child receiving a world-class education and sincerely believes that schools have the power to transform lives and communities.
  • Ms. Jennifer Williams - Jennifer Williams is the Quality Work Facilitator at Cumming Elementary. She is passionate about helping both teachers and students achieve. In her five years at Cumming, she has also served as a Title I support teacher and Instructional Lead Teacher. She works to support students by helping match research-based instructional strategies and programs with at-risk students. She supports teachers by designing professional development and coaching best practices. Jennifer believes every student can learn and achieve!
  • Ms. Natalie Sanfilippo - Natalie is the Title I Lead Teacher at Cumming Elementary. Her first experience as an educator was working with at-risk children and families and has remained her passion ever since. After serving as a first and third grade classroom teacher, she became a Title I educator taking on the many facets of the position. She is very dedicated to providing a welcoming, positive environment and helping students achieve significant academic success. As team lead she sets the example of always being compassionate to not only the children, but to their families as well who may be challenged to learn a new culture and language. She exhibits kindness, patience, and understanding which imparts the exceptional services that are provided for success in student's lives and accomplishments.
  • Ms. Katy Gunter – Katy is the Parent Involvement Coordinator at Cumming Elementary. She works each day to provide exceptional customer service to all families who are part of the school. From sharing strategies for supporting student achievement at home to being a liaison between the school and the families, Katy has a passion for making everyone feel welcome and worthy.

Keyword Descriptors

Family Friendly, Customer Service, School Climate, Parent Involvement, Cultural Diversity, Student Success, Gold Standard, Academic Achievement

Presentation Year


Start Date

3-4-2015 9:45 AM

End Date

3-4-2015 11:00 AM


Mar 4th, 9:45 AM Mar 4th, 11:00 AM

Achieving the Gold Standard: How Exceptional Customer Service Creates Family Friendly Schools


Cumming ES was one of four schools to be awarded Georgia’s Family Friendly Schools-Partnership Award in 2014. After partnering with the Ritz Carlton Buckhead, our beliefs of the importance of customer service have been further enhanced. Learn how to incorporate the “Gold Standard” in your school by engaging parents with exciting events and motivating them to attend with small incentives.