“Education is all a matter of building bridges.” – Ralph Ellison
BUILDING BRIDGES means Connecting & Empowering, which has always been my mission as a 5 +year parent volunteer in the Jersey City Public School District. My GOALS are to:
- Effectively engage city, state, and corporate partners to support public schools
- Facilitate the work of parent council groups, equipping them to become a powerful resource for schools
- Establish and streamline alternative sources of revenue for the school district
My EXPERIENCE includes:
- advocating for school funding on city and state level
- increasing a school’s annual non-profit revenues from $15,000/yr in 2013 to over $150,000/yr in 2018
- applying cost-saving solutions to support classrooms and facilities
- empowering teachers and strengthening student-teacher relationships by employing off-duty JCPS staff in parent-run After School Clubs and Summer Camp
- partnering with other schools, community groups and corporations
- streamlining school-parent communication
- establishing need based and merit based scholarships
- training and empowering new generations of parent leaders to ensure sustainability
- successfully applying for capital improvements and better school lunches
BRIDGING THE FINANCIAL GAP : As state aid becomes more and more scarce, the parent volunteer team under my leadership worked to create alternative forms of financial support for our school.
- Established an annual Extracurricular Scholarship, sponsoring students based on their interest and need, for a semester of an after school club.
- Established a “Cornelia F. Bradford Award” presented annually to 6 graduating 5th Graders, honoring our school’s founder, and aimed to promote and recognize students’ character and moral integrity. This award is outlined in Issue #6 of my newsletter “The Bradford Spirit”.
- We co-sponsor a “Dance-to-Learn” creative movement workshop in partnership with “Nimbus Dance Works”. All students in grades 2 & 3 participate in a semester of dance, enjoying movement and exercise in the midst of rigorous studies . Nearly 200 students participate annually, free of cost.
- As a non-profit corporation, Parent Council group is able to supply the household needs of our school (anything from Air Conditioners and classroom furniture to stationary) in a cost-effective and timely fashion.
“Middle School Connection”: to help our parents and students bridge the gap between elementary and middle school and learn about the acceptance processes involved, I championed an initiative to invite principals from Jersey City public middle schools and academic program supervisors to come and speak at monthly Parent Meetings. You can read about this initiative and check out parent reviews in the Issue #9 of “The Bradford Spirit”.
- COMMUNICATION IS KEY : Parents need their concerns to be heard and want
to be fully informed about their child’s school experience. When I became Parent Council President 5 years ago I met this need by maintaining a 24/7 email helpline, as well as established a weekly “CPA Hour” during which parents come in and meet with a member of the Parent Council to voice their concern, provide feedback or ask questions, without having to wait for the monthly parent meetings.
- We appointed Class Parents in order to more efficiently meet the needs of each homeroom teacher/ class. This promotes parent leadership and strengthens parent/teacher partnerships.
- BRIDGING GENERATIONS – For the past five years I have hosted a Memorial Day Breakfast at PS16 for our community veterans, while students and staff prepare a grand concert celebration. It is a wonderful way to connect generations and honor our servicemen and women.
- CONNECTING PAST & PRESENT – I believe that history holds many important lessons for all of us. To make these lessons fun and memorable for our children, every Halloween at PS#16 I dress up as our school’s founder – Cornelia Foster Bradford, and I share her story with the students. She was a remarkable woman who devoted her life to the improvement of the lives of children and poor immigrants in Jersey City, and her story is worth retellingto future generations.
Cornelia Bradford believed that we are all our brothers’ keepers, and I believe it still applies to us. We need to take responsibility for the schools and children of this city, by making sure that each school receives equitable treatment and has a strong parent resource, complete with community bridges and sources of non-profit funding.
- CULTURE BRIDGES – The school where I volunteer is presently home to more than 70 different nations, and we percieve it as a microcosm of the world, and a testament to the amazing diversity of the Jersey City community. As a school family, we seize every opportunity to learn from each other and celebrate each other’s culture. A great example of this is when we join our Indian community in celebrating Diwali. We also hold an International Day, on which students and staff are invited to wear their national clothing to school.
CLICK HERE to learn more about my work on the Parent Council and the Bridges we were able to build between parents and teachers, with other schools in the district, and throughout the local community.