The response Ackerman got would tell her a lot about why parents might not be getting involved in their child's school.
"One school said, 'Who are you and what do you want? You can't just walk up here like that. You have to make an appointment,'" related Karen Mapp, a senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education who studies family engagement, this week.
I heard from Mapp when I got the chance to sit in on a professional development workshop this week for Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools staff who work to increase family involvement in the school.
Many were counselors, others had specific family engagement titles, and there were a few assistant principals or others mixed in. Senior leaders had gone through a similar training earlier in the day.
One of Mapp's main points: Increasing involvement in schooling starts with training for everyone in the school, not just counselors.
"If you don't have a system for greeting families, you are behind," Mapp said. "You are leaving it to chance."
The seminar was an enlightening look at some of the challenges CMS faces in getting families involved in the school community.
Staff members offered a variety of issues: Parents without transportation to the school, language barriers, and parents who had a bad school experience of their own growing up.
Mapp encouraged the group to attack the problem from both sides, rather than just counting on parents to change behavior. Teachers and staff, for example, could be trained in ways to make the school more inviting for parents, and gear communication more toward learning.
She suggested things like home visits, or an open house that focuses on two things each child should be able to do by the end of the semester, rather than one that harps on attendance policy and dress code.
Mapp also asked the group to expand their view of engagement. "Parental involvement" typically means mom or dad showing up to a school event; "family engagement" could mean an uncle or close neighbor advocating for school work, or a parent showing a child a rough life of manual labor because he doesn't have an education.
Mapp showed research from the University of Chicago that showed that increased parent engagement is a crucial element to lasting academic improvement.
"It has to be intentional," Mapp said. "Your schools cannot improve without it. Full stop."