2018 Week 6: Education
The impact of a community school coordinator goes beyond a school. In fact, a community school coordinator shapes polices in government; grants in a community; and partnerships with community organizations. Throughout the summer I have learned the interpersonal dynamics between a school, neighboring communities, and institutions and the need for communication and collaboration among all of levels of authority. It is impressive to see how many people and organizations work together to positively impact a student’s academic success and life-long success.
So this week, the Director of Community Schools Ms. Jennifer McDowell, my supervisor Mr. Ahmad Collick, and I went to meet with Councilman Zeke Cohen to discuss initiatives that would connect the school, community, police force, and government into a closer communicative relationship. It was exciting to see how the Education sector intersected with the Government and Policy sector in order to make progressive change in the broader community! Furthermore, my supervisor and I had the chance to connect and meet with community organizations to provide support in future projects at City Springs Elementary/Middle School. This social networking opportunity was a wonderful chance to see how the Healthcare and Health Policy, and Nonprofit sector intersected with the Education sector to provide resources and manpower for future initiatives.
Beyond the meetings, Mr. Collick and I had to decide the next step with the data analysis. It has become clear what resources are need and where to find these resources. The vital step would be connecting parents and students to these resources. I have learned that connecting people to other people is not an quick and easy task- it requires patience, teamwork, and creativity to motivate such connections. So, we devised three plans to tackle Tier I (5-9 days absent), Tier I (10-15 days absent), and Tier III students (16+ days absent). Last week’s leadership summit greatly equipped me with the tools on how to assess the three tiers specific to City Springs Elementary/Middle School and assessing needs in a reasonable and feasible manner. After meeting with many community school coordinators, I learned that goals aren’t meant to be a standard checklist. In fact, the goals of a community school coordinator are to assess “how much”, “how well”, and “who was better off” from any established programs, initiatives, and restorative practices. Thus, it is vital to ensure that each student’s needs are focused individually and not forgotten in a mass of students with an absenteeism trend.
The highlight of this week would be the exciting news that Baltimore received the CHOICE grant from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development! This grant would develop the Perkins Homes area and provide residents with new affordable housing. Furthermore, the grant would attract investment into three neighborhoods and bring economic growth and development to Baltimore City. In the next two weeks, I have the time to reflect on this news and the larger impact it has upon the community. I hope to return soon with coherent self-reflection next week, so stay tuned…
This week, we began to think about canvassing in more strategic ways, and the students contacted community organizations and got on the agenda for community meetings. This work will need to continue primarily throughout the year, and I am working with the new hire to prepare for the work to continue if I am not around during the coming school year. These connection are very important to the longevity of the organizations, since they transcend the civic campaigns that the young people are focusing on each year. The best part of the week was the relationships I built with some of the students. Though I am closer to some than others, I really enjoy talking to the young people, and I feel like I am making a difference for a few of them.
Many of the students at the Squashwise summer camp are YouthWorkers, sponsored by another organization that a CIIP intern is placed to work called YouthWorks. The YouthWorkers are paid and expected to treat their attendance at Squashwise like a job: arriving on time, leading the other students, taking out the trash, cleaning the office, etc. This past week, the YouthWorkers each got their own debit card from YouthWorks that their earned money would be accessed through. Earlier in the week, an employee from YouthWorks came to the office to give a lesson on financial literacy, how to budget your money, and answer any questions about the responsibilities of having a personal debit card. It was wonderful to see that they YouthWorks program took the time to encourage our students to use his or her earned money responsibly. Our students were also engaged and eager to learn about budgeting and how that would work in reality, since this was the first time that many of them would have their own money.
Squashwise also has the opportunity to work closely with MissionFit, a nonprofit gym for Baltimore’s youth, which is not currently a CIIP placement area but another nonprofit reaching to strengthen Baltimore’s youth both physically and mentally. They provide our students with personally training classes twice a week, accompanied by mindfulness training and gratitude practices. The partnership between our nonprofit organizations allows for additional enriching opportunities for our students that they normally would not have access to.
Before my first summer working for Code in the Schools at the Centre Theatre, I always wondered why people got off at the Station North JHMI stop. Besides a few encounters with the Korean restaurants in the area, I had previously never ventured into the Station North neighborhood.
However, working in the neighborhood for the past year, I have learned a considerable amount about the neighborhood, ranging from how to properly get off the JHMI without missing the stop to neighborhood revitalization projects such as Open Walls Baltimore to learning about the abandoned bowling alley on the 2nd floor of the North Avenue Market. As I have experienced and learned more from the neighborhood, I have come to greatly appreciate and respect the community thought placed behind the current efforts to restore the Station North. And I think this is why I was so surprised by the closing of BAMF.
Over the past year of working in the area, I have heard over and over again from co-workers, CSC staff, and Hopkins administration how Station North is an up-and-coming neighborhood. The Washington Post even published an article in 2012 calling the district an “it” neighborhood. And with HCPI and the development occurring near Penn Station, I would think these remarks about the area to be true. However, with BAMF closing, Red Emma’s moving, and the block of empty buildings on North Ave, I cannot help but think that these remarks are a bit optimistic and preemptive.
I am sure that these development projects are successful to a degree and I am sure we are beginning to witness the negative consequences of the gentrification and displacement in this neighborhood as well. But the fluctuation of the local businesses in the neighborhood makes me wonder what Station North is going to look like in 20 years.
This week, I sat in on meetings with two new principals who would be starting at Baltimore City Public Schools in the fall. Liberty Elementary is a high-performing school, with excellent test scores and top-notch teachers, so I wasn’t surprised that the new principals had a stream of questions for Mr. Manko and Ms. Krauss, the assistant principal.
How are you structuring the math curriculum? How did you get these classroom aids? What does the schedule look like? Why do the teachers love you? Ultimately, the questions boiled down to a simple one: What makes Liberty special?
From what I’ve gathered from my past six weeks at Liberty, I’ve found that the answer really lies in relationship building. Liberty rarely has to fill staff vacancies prior to the start of each school year because the staff feels valued and supported. Whenever decisions are made that affect the staff, such as resource period schedules, the school administrators reach out to the teachers for their input.
Underlying the relationship between the administrators and the teaching staff is a strong sense of trust. One of the new principals brought up the topic of providing teacher feedback and conducting evaluations. Mr. Manko responded that it would be awfully arrogant of him to sit in on a class and think that he could deliver advice that would improve the teacher’s teaching. Instead, he opts to spend a lot of time in the classrooms to be a present figure in the school and to offer support. He strives to do whatever is necessary to support the learning environment and doesn’t ask the staff to do anything that he wouldn’t do. Once, when a bird got trapped in a third-floor classroom and made a mess everywhere, Mr. Manko didn’t think it would be fair to make the custodians clean it up. He spent a day cleaning it up by himself instead. Intentional acts such as these add up to help Liberty Elementary retain incredible staff members and let their individual strengths shine.
Liberty staff members also place high value in the relationships that they build with their students. Earlier this week, a student got sent down to the office for urinating on another child’s clothes. Instead of harshly scolding or belittling the child, Ms. Krauss had a conversation with him. She calmly asked him questions in order to get him to think about why he chose to act the way he did, what the consequences of his actions would be, and what he should choose to do in the future. Witnessing these sorts of interactions on a daily basis reminds me of how fortunate I am to work in an environment where every individual is fully respected as a human being.Tags: 2018, Baltimore Squashwise, Child First Authority, CIIP, CIIP 2018, Code in the Schools, Liberty Elementary, Shepherd's Clinic, The Intersection, Week 6