- West Side’s Community Career Connections( C3 program) had two sessions in January. The students continue to be enthusiastic and wonderful ambassadors of the school when on company visits. For January, the first session focused on follow up from the December 19 visit to Thomaston Savings Bank including writing thank you notes and preparation for the visit to ICES, for the cohort of 16 sixth grade students.
- ICES, Inc. specializes in serving individuals with cognitive disorders, mental illness, and those in the autistic spectrum. This visit introduced students to a multidimensional and innovative human services company whose mission is to help individuals improve adolescent and family well being. The C3 students got to hear fist hand that when hiring, they look for exceedingly reliable professionals who will focus on individuals’ personal strengths and promote respect and dignity of all. The students got to see the initiatives that provide practical training like lawn care and automotive servicing. They were exposed to the CNA services and training with a demonstration of taking blood pressure and supporting home based exercising.
- James O’Donnell, Behavior Technician at West Side and an originator of the C3 program, did a presentation to the Waterbury Chamber who are now planning a fundraiser in May to support West Side initiatives.
- CT Money School wrapped up their eight-part family money matters classes in January. This series of classes was held at the Parent Resource Center at West Side Middle School. This supports Two Generation work by helping families find pathways to become financially secure.
- Bridge to Success is the collective impact STRIVE initiative in Waterbury. Jocelyn Ault presented ASPIRE at the January meeting of the family and community engagement committee. They are exploring this as a way to map assets across the organization.
2015 – 2016
One of our most successful events held at West Side Middle School to date, March Math Madness had roughly 130 students and parents in attendance. From 6:00pm-7:00pm families were welcomed by the PTA and invited to move about several classrooms participating in activities such as “Are You Smarter Than a 6th Grader?” a Graphing Calculator Activity, “Challenge Yourself With the Product Game,” and an introduction to parents of the online math websites and apps available to support education at home. During this time, the PTA also distributed snacks via cart, classroom to classroom.
At 7:00pm everyone, including parents, moved to the library for Math Bingo. There were so many prizes donated that the game went on until after 8:00pm. We had many students from our Elementary Schools also attend with their parents shining a light on West Side and its family engagement. They thanked us for such a fun evening. Some parents gave ideas of future events that we should consider holding.
This exemplar event was a true collaboration between, staff, students, community, families and the PTA. Math coach, Malinda Grove, served as the liaison between the staff, Parent Liaison and CommPACT team member, Jassie Myers, and the PTA to make sure that the event was coordinated and integrated. Prior to this event, students from each grade level competed in a Math Competition with one winner from each grade level. Eighth grade students were asked to participate by creating their own math or science projects to be showcased with corresponding activities to involve all the students who attended. Incoming 5th grade students from Tinker, Bunker Hill, Washington, and Hopeville Elementary Schools were invited to attend with their parents.
Google Chrome books were used for the “online math resource” class. PTA was present to handle the welcoming of parents and the distribution of refreshments. All non-educational prizes were donated from local businesses (educational prizes were paid by Title 1 Parent Involvement funds).
Saturday morning Couponing with Missy Morris was a hit again. This event was done in partnership with the Tinker PTA for this event. We provided the space and beverages, lunch was provided by the B.W. Tinker School PTA. Please see attached flyer for more info.
On March 14, fifteen parents and community members eagerly attended a West Side hosted workshop about saving money through easy couponing techniques. They learned tips on how to get different kinds of coupons, coupon vocabulary, how to maximize savings and shop the stores and, very importantly, how to organize coupons so you always have access to discounts when you need them. Sometimes separating transactions can save money- who knew? Insider secrets were shared and everyone went home with valuable information as well as insight on how to make this a lifestyle that will consistently save money over time. With Missy’s tips, families might save up to 90% off shopping- everyone was excited about that and ready to go implement her tips.
Planning continues for the Waterbury District Parent Advisory Committee (DPAC) Parent Leadership Conference on May 20th to be held at Naugatuck Valley Community College. This is a large partnership event with approximately 200 parents, staff, students and community members involved in bringing learning and leadership building to Waterbury parents. CommPACT has been involved throughout the planning stages. Jassie Myers continues to be a leader on the planning team and uses many of the West Side parents, either on the team directly, using their talents to support this exemplar event.
Building Financial Skills for Families
West Side Middle School's Parent Room hosted CT Money School sessions for Waterbury parents. Established through CT Association of Human Services (CAHS), the CT Money School is a program that provides financial education workshops and financial coaching services for economically disadvantaged individuals and families. Workshop courses included Budgeting, ABC's of Credit, Managing Your Credit, Banking, Protecting Yourself, Saving, Financial Resiliency, Investing in Yourself and Home Ownership. Financial stress can consume a parent leaving little room for them to also support their children's education. Attendees report gaining valuable information that they are already using to better manage and maximize their finances. Each session was packed with information and ideas about how to better budget and manage family finances including ways to build credit and save for the future.
2014 – 2015
Listening to parents is an important component of the work that Parent Liaison and CommPACT Specialist Grisell (Jassie) Myers-Josephson is committed to at West Side Middle School. As part of this, she launched the year with a parent survey to identify key concerns and areas of support they hoped to have addressed. Questions ranged from needing more information on Progress School (to track student success), college and job readiness, social/emotional support needed, to building financial skills. Using the over 250 survey responses, Jassie, working with West Side’s PTA and engaging parents, has planned a very full schedule of Parent Room activities focused on these needs and desires. Her efforts have helped coordinate community resources and provided more comprehensive support to families. The problems of our students are rarely independent of the experiences of the adults in their lives and the places in which they live, learn and grow. Using parent defined data ensures resources are coordinated and targeted on their needs and interests. Special programs have already been offered for most of the top 10 issues.
Three Waterbury parents, Grisell (Jassie) Myers, Heather Greene and Victoria Cyr attended the State Board of Education meeting on November 4. Jassie and Heather shared their views regarding how the newly proposed science standards would encourage students to become better thinkers, communicators and engineers.
- Parent Liaison Jassie Myers launched the year with a parent survey and had over 250 responses to help direct activities and decisions toward parent needs and desires. Many programs have been delivered or are in the planning stages to support these needs.
- Strategies to help families stretch budgets included an October 24th Couponing Class with expert Missy Morris. The program showed not only how to coupon but how to also use store incentives to save money at the register. This class is upbeat, keeps participants engaged and has them leaving with tools to start saving right away.
- Project Love is a monthly event focused on families/students that are currently residing in the local homeless shelters. The event is centered around education and allows families time to connect with Parent Liaisons to obtain information on supporting their children's education (school supplies and books are also provided). The families are bused to and from the shelters to the event. Most of these meetings are hosted at the Parent Resource Center at West Side Middle School. The events not only entertain but also bring multi-cultural appreciation to the families. Songs are sung in English and Spanish, books read. At the most recent event a group of Dominican Dancers not only danced beautifully but also talked about the masks that they used certain times of the year.
October 17th was a gorgeous fall Saturday when errands and sports are usually at the top of the list, yet instead, families were streaming into West Side Middle School. Even students who have graduated were coming back. This is what the West Side’s Community Day tradition has evolved into several years after a team took on the challenge of developing a way to have students want to show off the school to their families.
It is a day where volunteers that include staff, parents and students invest in making school a magical autumn place to be for people of all ages. The halls were filled not only with students and parents but with grandparents, siblings, and amazing fall decorations right down to bales of hay and pumpkins. By having parents, staff, students and alumni each contribute their areas of expertise, the school is filled with non-stop activities such as classroom visits, art projects, games and contests, magic acts, student theatrical and music productions. There are also door prizes, fundraising activities, and information tables of community organizations. Of course food is featured as a team of teachers man the grill and baked goods are sold.
You know you have something pretty special going on when teens want to write and read about it. Two alumni, now at Kennedy High School, came back to interview teachers, parents, and Mrs. Burns (their former principal) so they that could write an article for their school newspaper. About 25 high school students also came to volunteer and help to make the day a success.
Inaugural Parent and Community Leadership Conference
On May 1, 2015, 170 parents, staff and community leaders attended Waterbury’s inaugural Parent and Community Leadership Conference. The day featured the sharing of best practices and workshops on a wide variety of topics to support parents in becoming stronger leaders and advocates within schools. CommPACT’s Michele Femc-Bagwell, Ph.D., led an ASPIRE workshop, helping parents, staff and community members envision how their own social capital can be harnessed to create innovative and supportive initiatives to benefit student outcomes. Waterbury was privileged to have Elizabeth Williamson, Northeast Communications Director for the U.S. Department of Education as their keynote speaker. CommPACT and the University of Connecticut were honored with the “Parent and Community Leadership Award.”
Those who attended a gathering the evening before the conference were able to take advantage of small group discussions. There were many teachers and staff members there including two principals, Maria Burns (West Side Middle School) and Louis Padua (Career Academy High School). This was a great event with the opportunity to greet the dignitaries as well as get a firsthand perspective on our national educational platform. Elizabeth Williamson had the chance to hear directly from parents about their experiences and what is critical to helping them and others be engaged as partners in their child’s education. The parents represented the cross cultural environment that is Waterbury. Each had their own story about how they have become engaged and the value it has had not only for their own children but for the schools they are involved with. One theme that was heard over and over is the importance of schools being welcoming places for parents and the factors that go into making that happen.
At the Parent and Community Leadership Conference, Elizabeth Williamson spoke about the national educational agenda and the importance for parents and caregivers to be partners in the education of our children. Waterbury Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Kathleen <em>Ouellette</em> spoke to the group and shared the district’s vision of partnership with families and the need to embrace community resources to support educational excellence. The event was planned over the last six months, headed by the Title 1 District Parent Advisory Committee (DPAC). They engaged a dedicated group of parents, district staff and community members whose collaboration around this day epitomizes family-school-community partnerships. Student talent was prominently showcased including jazz performances and lunch was served by the Culinary Arts students of Crosby and Wilby High Schools. In addition to ASPIRE, examples of workshops included: Reading and Common Core, College Readiness, Early Childhood- the New Frontier, Exploring Science, Introduction to Special Education Law, Slowing the Summer Slide, Keeping our Children Safe, and Math is Elementary. The partnerships the Waterbury district formed with GEAR UP, Naugatuck Valley Community College and CommPACT were keys to the success of this day, demonstrating what collective impact can accomplish.
West Side Middle School attend Innaugural Parent and Community Leadership Conference. On April 30, the night before the Parent and Community Leadership Conference, Elizabeth Williamson and Olga Pirela of the U.S. Department of Education visited West Side Middle School for an evening reception hosted by the Waterbury School District. Waterbury parents, staff and community members had the chance to chat with them and to share their perspectives. Monroe Webster, of the Mayor’s office, and Alderman Paul Pernerewski, Jr. were there to represent city support. Hearing from parents, Ms. Williamson saw the West Side Parent Resource Room as a great asset and wants to feature it in one of her newsletters.
The West Side Cadre has focused on improving communications among staff via the school website. Once the desired avenue of communication has been established, the Cadre will focus on then funneling that information to parents (website, IRIS, alerts, newsletters).
The Title I District Parent Advisory Council, consisting of parents and community members are planning a Parent and Community Leadership Conference May 1, 2015. The conference will bring speakers and workshops to parents, parent liaisons and community members. The focus of the conference is to empower our leaders through education so that they can partner with the district in improving student outcomes. There will also be recognition for outstanding parent and community contributions CommPACT will be a major sponsor of this event and is partnering with Naugatuck Valley Community College and Gear-Up, the City of Waterbury Department of Education/Title I, and Bridge to Success. • On January 22nd, Patti Avalone trained West Side’s School Governance Council on steps to success for developing school-family compacts and ways to continue to develop effective compacts.
On March 11, at West Side Middle School in Waterbury, Representative Victor Cuevas had a lively and very educational meeting with twenty parents, students, teachers, district staff and the Principal, Maria Burns. They were able to discuss the tough budget cycle and voice their concerns about the elimination of CommPACT funding. Senator Joan Hartley also joined the group by phone for a short time.
Representative Cuevas listened to the various areas of support that the CommPACT Community Schools Collaborative has given to West Side over the seven years they have worked together. Principal, Maria Burns kicked off the discussion talking about the value she and the staff put on the relationship they have formed with CommPACT and that the support has had ripple effects throughout not only the school but also the district. She shared that the model uses teams of parents and staff to constantly identify ways to improve the school.
Waterbury parent and West Side volunteer, Heather Greene, talked about the mutual respect and trust between parents and staff that has developed over time, making West Side a very welcoming school where today, parents help other parents become comfortable in the school and learn to become their child’s advocate. Several parents and teachers talked about the collaborative atmosphere where parents work with teachers to help their children in developing the academic and behavioral skills they need to be successful. The development of a dedicated Parent Resource Center has become not only of value to West Side’s parents but is used for many meetings district wide. Parent, Sarah McNerney talked about how she used to feel intimidated and today she feels very comfortable talking to any staff member about not only her own children but also about suggestions she has to better the school.</p>
Teacher, Jennifer Delaney showed a PowerPoint about the work the CommPACT has done and talked about the value of the professional development she and others have had which translates directly into her improved skills in engaging parents and also in bringing enrichment into her classroom.
Representative Cuevas was very generous with his time and provided insight into the process that the budget will go through before being finalized at the end of April. He encouraged people to become informed about the issues and tradeoffs that are likely to be part of this year’s budget and to advocate for those things that are important to them.
CPAC, Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, located in Niantic, Connecticut, was at the West Side Middle School Parent Resource Center on November 13th, from 6:00-7:30 P.M. Parents throughout the district were invited to attend this informative session, titled, “Becoming Your Child’s Best Advocate.” There was a wealth of information that was given out as well as a really great turnout, as the room was over flowing with people.
Connecticut Parent Advocacy Center, Inc. (CPAC) is a statewide nonprofit organization that offers information and support to families of children with any disability or chronic illness, age birth to 26. All of their services are free of charge. CPAC shared slides with everyone and spoke mostly about IEP’s (Individualized Education Plan) for students who have them. An interesting thing that many learned is that when you receive a copy of your child’s IEP that every child is assigned a case manager. The name of your case manager is in the IEP and is someone the parent should get to know and utilize.
There were also many parents in attendance with children who had a 504 and had questions as well. Section 504 protects all persons with a disability who:
- have a physical or mental impairment which substantially limits (permanently or temporarily) one or more major life activities*
- have a record of such an impairment, or
- are regarded as having such an impairment.
Major life activities include functions such as walking, seeing, hearing, speaking, breathing, learning, working, caring for oneself, and performing manual tasks.
In addition to school-age children who are eligible for special education services under IDEA, Section 504 also provides for students with communicable diseases, attention deficit disorders (ADD/ADHD), behavior disorders, chronic asthma, severe allergies, physical disabilities, and diabetes. Some of those in attendance felt that their child needed an IEP instead of a 504. How do you know if your child falls into this category? Great question! Our questions were answered that night, but if you were not in attendance and are not sure, you will have to contact someone at CPAC.
Although there was plenty of information to be given, some were left with still more questions after the presentation. The response: contact CPAC. They will work one on one with you and your current situation. They will also help you through your IEP and all of the language in it as well as 504’s too. This was a great informational session for all who attended. For more information you can contact CPAC at: 1-800-445-2722 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Services are FREE for families.
Submitted By: Heather Greene
CommPACT was a founding partner in what has now become an institution at West Side Middle School in Waterbury. On Saturday, October 18th a perfect Fall Community Day was visited by well over 400 family members and students. Even graduates from West Side came back to share in the fun and relive their fond memories of this super-sized event.
“An event like this does not happen without a huge team of support,” as Jassie Myers, our CommPACT Coordinator at West Side, says. Each of West Side’s Cadres worked to develop interesting events, raffles, and to have baked items contributed. Staff as well as parents hosted a wide variety of events. Over 25 high school students came to volunteer for the day, giving all the students exposure to the concept of “giving back.”
Cornstalks, bales of hay, pumpkins and gourds were everywhere bringing a festive flare. How exciting to walk in the door and be looking at bikes and games you might win, donated by various community organizations. The art teachers worked together to create ceramic pumpkins to be decorated. Mr. Abate, a teacher, is also a magician who worked his magic with students wondering, “How did he do that?” The Music and Theater Arts students filled the stage all day showcasing the incredible variety of student talents. The chorus sang under the direction of Ms. Chrissy Horvath. Mr. Jim Wilkas led the band and Mr. Joe Silva led the guitar ensemble. Mr. Mike Cappiello’s theater arts students performed various acts and West Side alumni came back to join in the performances. In the cafeteria was a team who organized a highly successful raffle with wonderful baskets of goodies and gifts that had been donated by the community. At another station, there were yummy donated baked goods being sold and behind the school a team of teachers were dedicated to cooking perfect golden hot dogs. The 7th grade teachers were raising funds to go to a Civil War Re-enactment by selling school mascot t-shirts. Books were donated and families encouraged to take them and read. The gym was a constant hive of activity as students streamed in to play with each other. One of the 8th grade students said this was her 3 year coming and that she had come even before she was a student. Her older sister, a graduate of West Side was the one to bring her this year.
Out on the front lawn, parents set up various games from toss-the-ring-on-the-cactus, to a bottle toss, to an obstacle course. A Boy Scout troop donated the equipment for these fun games! The parents who were running these games were actively talking to other families and using this as an opportunity to encourage more parents to become active and share their talents and ideas. Students shared their West Side pride, not only with their immediate family members but also grandparents, aunts and uncles.At the same time, chalk artwork was being created on the front sidewalk. What a wonderful space to create masterpieces and to demonstrate creativity.
The Parent Resource Center was a hive of activity and a place to simply hang out or play on the computer. When asked what was special about the day, one student sitting in the Center replied, “This is a day when I get to be in the school, have time to play and talk with my friends and to get to know some of the teachers better.” Right after this, one of the teachers came in and showed him some of what he considered to be “awesome” websites that incorporated learning games.
There have been a lot of things going on here at West Side. <strong>Missie Morris "the Crazy Coupon Chick"</strong> taught us the ins and outs of couponing and discussed the coupon policies for the major supermarkets and larger departments stores. She also delivered her message with an entertaining twist. We enjoyed the class so much that the 3 hour class felt like one. It was an amazing class!! The class was held on October 11, 2014 from 12-3PM. The cost per person was $20.00 which included a copy of her book which earns you free entry to any of her future couponing events. Our PTA co-sponsored the event by paying half of the entry fee for the first 25 participating parents from the district. We are looking forward to having Missie return in the future.
The ASPIRE survey was conducted on behalf of our Theater Arts teacher, Mr. Michael Cappiello. The cost of running a quality production can run in the thousands and schools are most times unable to cover the cost. This year, his students will be performing "Back to the 80's" and purchasing the license alone will be $1000.00. An invitation was sent home to the parents of the performing students and was conducted on September 29, 2014 at 6:00 PM. A light dinner was also provided. At the conclusion of our session and keeping the production in mind, we found a carpenter, cake decorator, chef, art teacher, electrician, musician, grant writer, sound engineer (sound board) and connections to actress/actors.
On Wednesday, October 1st, hundreds of community, school staff and family members came to watch Waterbury’s West Side Middle School, along with performing groups from other Waterbury Arts programs, in a wonderful event celebrating our soldiers, veterans and first responders sponsored by Waterbury’s Raymour and Flanigan store. It was a true community night capitalizing on the talents of our students.
Students in Mr. Cappiello’s after school theater group were featured in this tribute to Heroes. These students have all been students at West Side Middle School under Mr. Cappiello. Some are currently there and some have moved on to high school. They came together to sing, dance and act out productions to honor those who have served. Earlier in the week, some of their parents spent time doing the ASPIRE survey. It turns out that it is not just the students who have talents. These parents bring tremendous resources, skills and passion to help connect West Side Middle School and arts programs to community resources and to lend their own talent to the success of academics, the arts and fundraising endeavors.
2013 – 2014
In 2013-2014, West Side Middle School established a Parent Resource Center.
Each year begins with a dynamic Community Day. The entire school community plays an active role in this celebration. Beginning with the Principal’s welcoming address and including a guitar concert, book share, art work display, pumpkin painting, zumba and many more activities, the day is filled to overflowing with the enthusiasm, energy, caring and giving that typifies this middle school.
Last spring all parents were invited to attend an information session on the new Common Core State Standards and the Smarter Balanced Assessment. You will receive a brief introduction to the New Standards as well as instruction on how to access the Smarter Balanced Practice test portal. The School Governance Council met and to work on updating the West Side Middle School Parent Involvement Policy. The activity highlighted above is one example of West Side Middle School efforts to embrace school improvement and enhance student achievement.