Manchester Public Schools has been awarded a one-year, $713,520 grant from the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving to support family and community engagement in student learning and student success. This proposal was initially developed through a $50,000 planning grant provided by the Hartford Foundation this past spring.
Superintendent Matt Geary expressed tremendous excitement and gratitude for the opportunities this grant represents. "We make promises to all families as public educators, that the dreams they hold for their children will be shared and fought for by all of us as partners." Mr. Geary went on to say, "Effective schools can’t function alone. They need to be an integral part of an adult community that shares high expectations, caring and a responsibility to challenge and support all young people to reach their full potential. That responsibility includes ALL children. Our greatest successes come from true collaborations with families and the community." Over this past summer, Superintendent Geary worked with the Town of Manchester, parents, and several other partners to develop a bold new approach to family and community engagement in Manchester schools, identifying four areas of work that will be supported with Foundation funds.
Manchester Public Schools will use Hartford Foundation funds to open and staff an Office of Family and Community Engagement to strengthen and improve its coordination of family and community engagement policies, programs, supports and services, both internally and working closely with current and new partners. Dr. Scott Ratchford was recently hired to oversee this vital work. Dr. Ratchford comes to the role with experience as a classroom teacher, School Psychologist, building principal, and most recently Director of Teaching and Learning for Manchester. Dr. Ratchford was deeply involved in the development of the Family and Community Engagement grant and plan. His personal and professional backgrounds are ideal, giving him extensive experience in diverse communities and in the worlds of education and psychology.
"We expect that hundreds of Manchester students and families will benefit from this effort," said Linda J. Kelly, president of the Hartford Foundation. "Manchester Public Schools’ plan is consistent with the Hartford Foundation’s aim to ensure that all children in our region are prepared to succeed when they leave high school."
Manchester’s Board of Education Chair, Chris Patticini, offered gratitude to the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving and all who worked together to give shape and life to deeply held district values and beliefs that success for all students is the product of partnership between schools and families. On behalf of the Manchester Board of Education, Mr. Patticini stated, "I thank the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, the administration, and the planning and steering committees for their commitment to supporting all children and families in Manchester." During recent Board of Education retreats, the Board identified four key priorities for the schools, one of which was to create and strengthen relationships among Town officials, families, and the community. "The Board is excited and deeply committed to this work recognizing that we need to work together with families to ensure all students are successful."
Manchester Public Schools will develop a means of engaging district and school leaders, teachers, parents, caregivers, students and community members in shared learning about effective partnership practices promoting student learning and student success.
"When the schools actively partner with parents to build literacy, language and readiness for learning we see children come to school ready and excited to learn," Geary said. "When they go home to parents who can speak to and extend that learning our children come to see a community that cares about and plans for their success. It changes everything for kids."
In addition, grant activity will focus on further development of Manchester’s Family Resource Centers as hubs of shared district and community activity supporting healthy child development, student learning, and student success. At present, Family Resource Centers exist at five of nine elementary schools in Manchester, but MPS plans to open additional centers in 2015. Foundation funds will enable MPS to build each of these centers’ links and functional partnerships with a host of partners, including parents, the Town of Manchester, ECHN Family Development Center, and Manchester Youth Service Bureau, among other partners to support the needs of all students and their families.
"This truly is what the Hartford Foundation’s investments in education are all about," said Sara Sneed, the Hartford Foundation’s director of education investments. "With this grant, Manchester Public Schools will engage its entire community in supporting student success and we are thrilled to be able to help. We know that every child needs a variety of supports provided both within and outside of school if all are to enter school prepared to learn and graduate from school prepared to succeed."
[Photo: Doug Edwards, founder and Program Director of Real Dads Forever in Manchester, speaks about the importance of schools partnering with parents.]