Hartford Community Schools Initiative To Receive National Award
By VANESSA DE LA TORRE
June 05, 2013
HARTFORD —— Clark School has a food pantry on Wednesdays, a health clinician two days a week, financial literacy classes for parents and a nutrition and sports initiative.
That is only a sampling of the extra programs that Clark offers to families with help from a lead agency, the Village for Families and Children, and several other community partners, such as the Salvation Army and the University of Connecticut.
As one of seven Hartford Community Schools — a public-private partnership that also provides mental health services and clothing banks — "all of the students' and families' needs are met so they can focus on academics," Clark Principal Tayarisha Stone said.
"I really believe in it."
On Thursday, Hartford's program will receive a National Community School Award for Excellence from the Coalition for Community Schools, an advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. Mayor Pedro Segarra and other community leaders plan to accept the award on Capitol Hill.
The Hartford school system, the city of Hartford, the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut agreed in 2007 to financially support a wraparound school model that makes "the most efficient use of the limited resources we have," said Sandra Ward, director of Hartford Community Schools.
Those lead partners then launched the program in 2008 under former Superintendent Steven Adamowski, focusing on five city schools: Burns Latino Studies Academy, Asian Studies Academy at Dwight-Bellizzi, Hartford Magnet Trinity College Academy, Burr Elementary and Milner School.
Clark, which enrolls nearly 400 students in prekindergarten to eighth grade, and West Middle Elementary School joined the initiative in the 2011-12 academic year.
Clark parent Mille Soto said she has noticed improvement at the North End school. Stone, a first-year principal, and the staff are motivated, Soto said. "They really want your kids to learn."
The value of the additional resources poured into each community school range from $400,000 to $700,000 a year, Ward estimated. Each school has its own director and a lead agency that coordinates services, provides in-kind support and seeks private grants and state and federal money.
The agencies are the Village, COMPASS Youth Collaborative, Catholic Charities at Milner School and the Boys and Girls Club at West Middle.
They "help with attendance, making sure kids are at the school," Ward said Wednesday. "Doing whatever the schools need," including behavioral interventions, planning holiday celebrations and working with teachers and using data to target students for academic help.
City and school officials say they have seen improvement in test scores among students who attend the community schools' after-school tutoring and enrichment programs.
"The word 'expansion' is out there," said Jose Colon-Rivas, a school board member and the city's director of families, children, youth and recreation. The lead partners are assessing which aspects could possibly be replicated in other city schools.
At Burns, a 580-student school in Hartford's Frog Hollow neighborhood, Principal Monica Brase said services include an in-house therapist, free supper for children in after-school programs, parenting classes, a coupon swap group, "fatherhood" basketball nights on Mondays, and for mothers, Zumba or volleyball on Wednesdays.
Burns also hosted a series on healthy relationships that about 8 to 10 couples attended for several weeks, Brase said. In addition, Elizabeth Giannetta, Burns' community school director for COMPASS, coordinates volunteer efforts such as beautifying the school.
"It's really about the whole child," Brase said.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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