JPS Strives To Partner With Families And The Community
“When our schools, parents and families, and community groups build trusting, collaborative relationships and also align their efforts around student achievement, our students will succeed,” said JPS Director of Schools Tina Sandstrom. “We know that the college, career, and lifelong success of our students is crucial not only to our local, but to our global community. We celebrate the value of invitational education that guides us to create intentionally positive climates in order to reach our boundless potential.”
Last Halloween, Ring Elementary School had the requisite ghosts, goblins, superheroes and princesses filling their hallways for its annual Halloween Parade, but the enthusiastic Ring School staff seized a family engagement opportunity, and added a rich activity to the traditional Halloween festivities called, “Fall into Reading.” Every grade level focused on a different literacy skill and provided specific, hands-on learning opportunities for students and their families. UPK stressed reading aloud with your child. Kindergarten practiced sight words. First grade highlighted story elements such as character and plot. Second grade worked on comparing and contrasting. Third grade emphasized reading comprehension and fourth grade worked on close reading. This activity is just one of the ways that Jamestown Public Schools is aiming to increase family and community engagement in ways that support student achievement.
One of the actions that inspired this new way of looking at family interaction was professional training for Jamestown School staff members last summer with a national consultant. The training highlighted a type of engagement that is different from what educators, families and community members might typically imagine. This is not just about involvement in social events, fundraising, or traditional involvement in activities such as parent training and homework assistance. JPS is striving for an ongoing collaboration, focused on supporting student learning and academic success and, about promoting conversations on the challenges schools face in improving academic achievement.
An essential element of family and community engagement is the understanding that schools welcome families and the community as partners in their child’s learning. The JPS Strategic Plan, Goal 3, intends to “Improve communications and deepen engagement for both families and the broader community.” All Jamestown School Comprehensive Education Plans also have a section focused on improving family and community engagement, and each school has a FaCE Team welcoming families’ and community members’ participation.
Persell Middle School’s innovative approach to invitational education was demonstrated during last year’s Open House, which included an educational component and summoned the local community. Families and children worked together in their individual classrooms to decide what school-year goals were appropriate based on their child’s educational data. Learning to better understand their child’s successes and challenges through data was a valuable and meaningful exercise for families. As the community connection, Persell Middle School invited 18 local organizations to set-up tables and to help families explore the many services and opportunities that our local community offers.
“If we invite the families and community into our schools to help our students, it is a win-win situation for everyone,” said Persell Middle School Principal Phil Cammarata. “We are interdependent and need to work together to be a strong school district. It’s not just the support of families that we need, but also our local community and agencies. We are stronger together.”
A long-standing partnership between JPS and the Jamestown Community Learning Council (JCLC) provides the research-based Parents As Teachers Child Development and Family Support Program, as well as the Project EASE (Educational Advocacy and Scholastic Enrichment) Program at all district elementary schools, which incorporate child development knowledge with family learning packets that complement classroom learning, during monthly home visits conducted by trained Family Educators, and which also invite parents into schools to observe classroom learning and engage in group discussion. JCLC also provides a home/school liaison in middle schools, whose goal is to galvanize family-community-school connections.
Jamestown High School has long embraced the concept of working with the local community to enhance students’ academics. Since the induction of the six educational Academies, initiated to help increase student engagement and better define academic and career pathways, that focus has been refined with collaborations to enhance students’ experiences both inside and outside the classroom. Cummins Engine’s collaboration with JHS began as the “Adopt a School” program, through Dream it/Do it of WNY, offering a series of prep classes for students interested in engineering, with half the classes occurring at JHS and the other half at Cummins Engine. The collaboration has since expanded to Cummins Engine offering students tours of their facilities, internships and also linking closely with two of the JHS academies (Academy of Pre-Engineering, Manufacturing and Industrial Technology and Academy of Business, Management, Marketing and Technology) for visits and speakers. Many other local businesses and organizations donate their valuable resources and time to JHS. A few examples include: the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts who provides tours of their facilities, access to guest speakers and performances; Roger Tory Peterson Institute offering visits, river study work with their employees and guest speakers; and Lutheran exposes JHS students to a variety of health careers.
Other local organizations offer ways to enhance the curriculum already taught in the classroom.The Audubon Community Nature Center’s naturalists partner with our schools to deliver solid, science-based lessons that are fun and engaging but also align directly with the grade-level curriculum. Programs such as: Wetland Life Cycles and Incredible Insects are available to teachers to enhance what they are teaching in the classroom.
Sometimes the community partnership isn’t academic but is there to help or inspire our students to be better community members. At Love Elementary School, a visit from the JCC Jayhawks Baseball team helped students learn more about the importance of good character. The Chautauqua County Humane Society visits many Jamestown schools talking about responsible pet ownership and being kind to all animals, which in turn helps students be kind to one another.
When home, school and community stakeholders partner to focus their efforts on student achievement, our community becomes a positive, inviting place in which optimal learning and living truly converge.