When Deandra Seale's daughter Jeniya was having trouble doing her multiplication homework, she asked her mother for help. Unfortunately the multiplication method Jeniya's fourth grade class at Silver Lane School was using was completely unfamiliar to Deandra and she wasn't able to provide her daughter with the help she needed. After speaking with Sebrina Wilson, one of East Hartford Public Schools family community liaisons, Deandra found out about the district's "U for Youth" events, where teachers provide parents and students with detailed information about all the subject areas being worked on in the fourth grade including math, English, social studies and science.
Deandra and Jeniya attended a "U for Youth" event where teachers provided tutorials on some of the subject areas including the new way students were being asked to do their multiplication. In addition, parents and students were given a card game that provided an engaging way to learn this new method. In fact it was so fun, Jeniya insisted that Deandra play the game as soon as they got home. They continue to be deeply engaged in Jeniya's studies which has made a real impact on Jeniya's school work.
"Having just moved here from New York, I had never seen a school offer these types of events and free materials that allow parents to work more effectively with their children," said Deandra. "I really appreciate having a resource like Sebrina to connect me and other parents to these types of events and other activities that allow us to better support our children's academic success."
Now even more families like Deandra and Jeniya will be able to work in partnership with East Hartford Public Schools thanks to a one-year, $711,914 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving. The grant will be used to support East Hartford Public Schools ongoing efforts to meaningfully engage families and the broader community to support children's learning and success through its Partners in Achievement Initiative.
"Our Partners in Achievement Initiative with the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has been a game changer for children, families, educators and community here in East Hartford," said East Hartford Public Schools superintendent Nathan Quesnel. "Through this effort and the resources that have been provided, we have developed a systems approach to closing the gap that often exists between our schools and our homes. We could not be more excited about the transformation we are seeing in our school cultures in terms of community engagement and the early results that this work is having for the children and families that we serve."
Through the Partners in Achievement Initiative, the district has been reorganizing disparate child and family educational and community services to create a more seamless web of support for children, from early childhood through high school. This past year, the district developed a new infrastructure to support family and community engagement, new district policies, and new strategies to support staff, families, and the surrounding community to work in productive partnership.
Over the next year, East Hartford Public Schools will continue to deepen the work of its new Office of Family and Community Partnership, Family Resource Centers and Family and Community Liaisons. In particular, it will continue to build the capacity of school staff and families to work together to create welcoming school environments and enhance the district's effort to engage families with children from pre- school through high school, to better support the education of their children.
The district's Teaching and Learning Center will continue to serve as the hub of activity, growing beyond its predominantly virtual mode of operation in 2016 to become "place based" at Hockanum Elementary School. From this central location, the Center will serve as a "one stop" center to support a variety of predominantly very young students and family needs.
The Center will also offer workshops on best practices for educators, for instance, at the elementary level, "how to help parents support literacy and math skills development at home." The TLC, Family Liaisons and school principals will attend Scholastic Home-School Coordinators' Training and thereafter offer Scholastic Family Literacy Nights at elementary schools, enabling adults and students to develop their literacy together.
"All of this incredible work would not be happening if not for the hard work and dedication of Superintendent Quesnel, East Hartford Public Schools coordinator of family and community partnerships, Veronica Marion and the district's faculty and staff," said Sara Sneed, the Hartford Foundation's director of education investments. "East Hartford is a wonderful example of how family and community partnership with schools can support students' educational experience in and out of school. We are pleased to be able to support their work."
With an additional one-year, $100,000 grant from the Hartford Foundation, the district will partner with ChildPlan to conduct the Early Development Inventory (EDI), which was successfully implemented with Foundation support previously in West Hartford and Hartford. EDI examines the readiness skills of children entering kindergarten focusing on five key developmental domains for young children. The district and ChildPlan will use the EDI findings as a basis for community dialogue on young children's readiness for school and to engage East Hartford residents in a related dialogue with the public schools to address areas of concern.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. In 2015, the Foundation celebrated ninety years of grantmaking in the Greater Hartford region, made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations. It has awarded grants of $687 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit www.hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.