Media Releases

Family Engagement a Shared Responsibility

Family engagement in education is much more than parents helping a child with their most challenging homework or simply attending a single parent-teacher conference. It is more than incidental involvement. Rather, family engagement is a comprehensive alliance among the entire family, school, and surrounding community. The Harvard Family Research Project specifically defines family engagement as being “a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.”

Family engagement begins at home. Simple daily activities, such as discussing the school day and helping with homework, are important first steps. Parents with more time are encouraged to take more active roles outside the home, attending school functions and activities such as athletic events, musical performances, as well as other educational school and community events, with the entire family. Parents may also begin to engage with school teachers and administrators by volunteering at these events, chaperoning field trips, and becoming active members of parent-teacher and other supporting organizations.

While active encouragement and support by all family members is essential, family engagement in education truly begins by establishing and expanding these mutually-beneficial relationships among these families and their school district. A welcoming and approachable school environment encourages families to give feedback on their child’s experiences, and then have meaningful dialogue with teachers and administrators about opportunities for improvement. Schools, in return, then have more information about students’ strengths to nurture their success, as well as community input on the most positive and challenging aspects of their educational structures and systems.

Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP), in partnership with W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is fostering these mutually-beneficial relationships by piloting new Family Engagement initiatives, beginning with an extensive needs assessment in Warren City School District. Area residents are currently knocking on doors to survey families across the community about educational successes, challenges, and opportunities. At the same time, they are collecting contact information from parents and families desiring more mutually-beneficial relationships with school teachers and administrators for their own and other students’ success. Community needs assessment surveys may also be completed online.

The analysis of this assessment data will help identify the focus and priorities of several Parent Café events to be held in Warren this fall. The Parent Café model of guided conversations around predetermined questions at various tables in an informal relaxed setting is specifically designed to inspire individuals, enrich conversations, and build active engagement among participants. EOEP will host these café sessions at a number of different sites, such as churches and public housing developments, while also providing free childcare and a light meal, to maximize community involvement. The Parent Café dates, times, and locations will be announced through the media and online shortly. Anyone submitting their contact information through the needs assessment survey, or through our web page, will receive personal notification by phone or email.

Feedback from the Parent Cafes, when combined with assessment data, will chart a clear path to future family engagement opportunities and initiatives, complementing the strong work already being done by many Mahoning Valley schools. Together in collaboration with school, community, and parent leadership, we will continue identifying and eliminating barriers to educational success.

Prepare Students for School Days

The back to school season can be stressful. After all, the summer was chock-full of fun, less structure and late bedtimes. Now it’s time to prepare students for school days again. However, this doesn’t have to be a chore. The following tips can help get your children on board and excited for school.

Scheduling Zzz’s

Oftentimes children sleep in later during the summer, and need to adjust back to a sleep schedule for school. One way to adapt your child’s schedule is to set their alarm earlier two weeks before the start of school. Parents can gradually ease their child into a good sleep schedule so they aren’t groggy the first week of school.

Numerous studies show that a regular bedtime is crucial for the wellbeing of children. For school-aged children, it’s especially important to establish lifelong sleep habits. A lack of a regular sleep schedule is linked to lower academic achievement and higher rates of absenteeism. Worse, it is also linked to hyperactivity, acting out and being emotionally withdrawn.

The ideal amount of sleep for grade-schoolers (6-12 year olds) is 9-12 hours, and for teens (13-18 year olds), 8-10 hours. Two big culprits of a poor sleep routine are too much screen time and caffeine. Both can detract from the quality and length of sleep.  Limit these two by scheduling screen time after-school, removing TVs and video game consoles from the bedroom, and lessening caffeine intake in the afternoons and evenings.

Shop Smart and Early

How many old binders, pens, and folders are lying around in drawers, forgotten about? Back-to-school shopping should be done to re-stock supplies, not utterly replace existing supplies. Shopping smart means that parents only buy what they need. Lots of other materials—such as binders, book bags, pencil cases—can be re-used each year. This move not only saves money, it teaches children the importance of sustainability and re-use. For everything else still needed, make sure to shop early to avoid the rush and stress of making shopping trips last-minute.

Having the proper supplies for class is crucial to the success of students. Usually teachers will send a supply list home a month before the first day. If the budget is tight this year, make a list and prioritize the most important supplies. Hunt for back-to-school sales or bargains, and consider buying in bulk essential supplies that will be needed throughout the year. If you live in Ashtabula, Columbiana, or the Mahoning Valley, consult this list to see if your child is eligible for free school supplies.

You can also buy in bulk to save on school lunches. Check local supermarkets for deals on fruits and vegetables, to pack healthy lunches for your child. You can also check out the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) to see if your child qualifies for free or reduced school lunches.

Plan, Plan, Plan

Planning ahead is the best way to avoid a stressful first day. Parents can set a good example by planning ahead themselves. First, create a planning method for the entire family, and then specifically for each child. A central calendar is a great way to schedule the entire family’s activities, appointments, and events. Display it in a main room for the entire family to see, and update it weekly or even daily. Invest in a planner or agenda for each child, as it’s a great way to learn how to plan day-to-day.

Is the morning rush too hectic, with kids fighting for bathroom time and breakfast being forgotten? Parents can plan and prepare for each school day the night before. Set the breakfast table and pack lunches the night before as a family. Parents can get their kids involved in creating and preparing their daily lunch meals by asking for their input on what to buy, and teaching them how to pack their lunches. Parents can also encourage their kids to set out their school clothes and backpack the night before.

Get Ready to Learn

Getting children back into school-mode is not just about readjusting sleep schedules and purchasing planners, it’s also about preparing them to learn. Getting back into school mode can be done several ways, including visiting cultural attractions such as museums and attending local back-to-school events.

Back-to-school community events abound. Parks bustle with events that encourage play and exercise. Farmer’s Markets often have craft activities for kids, live music, and healthy cooking demos. These events and more can be found either through a park’s online community calendar, or on this list of Mahoning Valley summer events.

Typically, local libraries will host events that promote reading, music, art, and play. These events can be found on their websites as well. Click here to learn more about what’s going on in Ashtabula, Columbiana, Mahoning, and Trumbull County libraries.

Museums also provide unique learning experiences, oftentimes their exhibits teach many subjects at once. Children can be exposed to historical artifacts about art, history, biology, and more, all in one visit. Check out some of Mahoning Valley’s unique museums, such as Oh Wow! The Roger and Gloria Jones Children’s Center for Science and Technology Museum, The Butler Institute of American Art, The Ernie Hall Aviation Museum, The Museum of Ceramics, or The Hubbard House Underground Railroad Museum.

This back-to-school season can be stress-free and fun with the right preparation. Here’s to the start of a great year!

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.

 

 

 

 

Advocate for Education

The 4th of July is a day of fireworks, family, and of course, hotdogs and hamburgers. More importantly, it’s a day to reflect on our freedom and rights as American citizens. Our voice matters, on a local, state, and federal level. And our voice can lead to change through legislative advocacy.

Legislative advocacy for Education means supporting and speaking up for children—in schools, in communities, and before government bodies and other organizations that make decisions affecting children. Advocacy’s meaning is broad. For one example, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership has engaged in advocacy through data-driven reports. EOEP recently partnered with Policy Matters Ohio to report findings and recommend changes to provide access to quality preschools for everyone in the Valley.

Legislative advocacy can be done at an organizational level, such as by EOEP, or on an individual level. All individuals, including students, parents, and teachers, can take simple steps to advocate for education in their region.

On an individual level, a solid first step is to attend a school board meeting or even serve on the school board. That way, community members can understand first-hand the key issues faced by schools. Once an understanding of these issues is reached, individuals could offer recommendations to the schools. For example, individuals could work closely with schools to implement strong family engagement programs, such as parent workshops that address the significance of reading at home. Attending school board meetings is another excellent way to network with key players in a district.

Community members may also schedule a meeting separately with school leaders to discuss concerns or topics of importance to the district. Students in middle or high school can run for student government, or contact student government leaders to discuss ideas. Student government associations at a university are usually given a budget to help fund student organizations. College students could join student government or lobby funds from one of their student organizations.

Local school funding plays a critical role in the education decision-making process. While the state and federal government finance part of public school district budgets, the largest share often comes from local sources, such as property taxes, in the form of tax levies. School districts may place a levy on the ballot and, if approved by a majority of voters, the county then charges and collects the tax over a specific period of time for a variety of school uses, including debt service, operating expenses, ongoing or special improvements, as well as recreational, library, technology, or even community center purposes. Working directly with your local school board and specific levy committees are the best way to learn more about and influence the direction of these complex local school funding opportunities.

Oftentimes, local funding is also impacted by the state and federal government. Enter your zip code at the Ohio Legislature 132nd General Assembly web page to identify your Ohio House and Senate members, visit Ohio.GOV to find contact information for other State of Ohio elected officials, and engage with the State Board of Education online. To reach your federal Congressional representatives, enter your home address at GovTrack.US, and then share your opinions with the U.S. Department of Education.

In advocacy, there is power in numbers through grassroots organizing. Joining a local advocacy group allows one voice to join many on an issue. Together, individuals could organize events, distribute literature, and call representatives en masse about an issue. When it comes to writing, introducing, and passing bills, as well as securing funding, the more constituent support, the better.

A community member could also write a letter to the editor of a local newspaper, and have other parents and/or advocates sign it. Newspaper’s have far-reaching audiences in the community, and are viewed as legitimate sources of information. Because of this, letters to the editor are powerful messages.

Lastly, individuals shouldn’t be afraid to post about important issues via social media. Family and friends may just be swayed to join the efforts, or vote in a way that benefits education.

Whenever advocating for an issue, keep these following tips in mind:

  • Keep track of key bills that will affect education in your region.
  • Know the names of your representatives, as well as their voting positions.
  • Know issues inside and out. Be prepared to summarize positions.
  • Know the opposing argument.
  • Fact-check the sources of news articles. Make sure all information is credible.
  • Don’t guess at or exaggerate fact. An individual doesn’t have to be an expert, but they do have to be honest.

A key pattern in successful legislative advocacy is a clear understanding of the issue, open and active community engagement and education, and strength in numbers. Without one of these three components, advocacy falls flat. A single person who can argue their point well won’t be able to sway legislators. However, a group of thousands of people who present a clear argument can. For more information, see Community Tool Box’s General Rules for Organizing for Legislative Advocacy.

An incredible success story comes from Massachusetts. An adult education advocacy group – Massachusetts Coalition for Adult Education (MCAE) – drafted a bill upholding the state’s duty to educate all of its citizens, no matter their age. The MCAE located legislators to sponsor it, and through a joint effort it was passed as a part of an education reform bill. Because of this, state funding for adult literacy education increased greatly, allowing crucial programs to be implemented. More adults are now learning how to read, who wouldn’t have had the opportunity a decade ago. This concrete element marks true success in advocacy. However, with advocacy, a job is never “finished.” MCAE continues to lobby for continual funding for this program. Many other advocacy groups remain attentive to new bills and programs that could help or hurt their mission.

No doubt, legislative advocacy is crucial to support education on all levels. It’s up to us to speak up.

Written by Georgia Kasamias, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership Communications Intern and senior at Youngstown State University.

Education Starts Early in Warren City Schools

School no longer starts in kindergarten. Children and their families across Warren now can get an academic edge, become familiar with the school they will attend, and start play time as early as age three.

Warren City Schools now offers 10 total preschool classrooms throughout the traditional academic year: an all-day program at each of the four PK-8 schools—Jefferson, Lincoln, McGuffey, and Willard—for four year olds, and both morning and afternoon half day programs at each of these schools as well as two more at Warren G. Harding High School for three- and four-year-old children. All preschools have earned the highest 5-star Step Up To Quality rating from State of Ohio, with each lead teacher holding at least a Bachelors degree in their field, and supported by a highly qualified assistant teacher.

Serving more than 300 children, the preschool program provides an early head start for more than 60% of the district’s kindergarten students. And it’s inclusive, offering free door-to-door transportation and tuition for any City of Warren resident. Most begin preschool in the same building they’ll soon be attending for nearly a decade. “It’s important to start kids at their neighborhood school. They and their families become immediately familiar with the building, our teachers and staff, and our policies, reducing transitions they might otherwise have to make later between academic programs,” said Kelly Hutchison, Warren City Schools Preschool Coordinator.

The literacy-based standards-driven program focuses on learning through play, with emphasis on social and emotional learning, oral language, shared reading, and early math skills. It begins with a Reggio Emilia inspired approach, which values every child as strong, capable and resilient—rich with wonder and knowledge. Preschool children construct their own learning, shaping it through the exploration of and reflection on experiences. These experiences allow these children to form an understanding of themselves and their place in the world through interactions with others. The surrounding environment acts as another teacher, with adults serving as mentors and guides, as this hands-on discovery learning lets children use all their senses to express their ideas through actual and symbolic languages.

Within this approach, using Literacy Beginnings framework, preschool students own curiosity and excitement are engaged in unique month-long project-based experiences to build a shared community of learners. From farming to construction to human anatomy, teachers build each month’s entire curriculum, infused with tons of arts and activities, to observe, explore, and understand each given topic. These projects are inclusive of business and community partners as well. To extend the learning experience, every student also receives a book aligned with the monthly topic every two weeks, not just for classroom use but also to take home permanently with corresponding games and enrichment activities to be completed with their parents.

Students learn how to make the world a better place, too, through Warren Kids CARE. Funded in part by a Trumbull Neighborhood Partnership Warren SOUP micro-grant, some students volunteer by caring for local senior communities while others take collections to support youth at Akron Children’s Hospital. The preschool programs also regularly engage out of the classroom with a variety of other community and service agencies, such as Warren-Trumbull County Public Library and Trumbull Art Gallery, among others.

This coming academic year, Warren City Schools are expanding the preschool program by hiring a new Family Liaison. In addition to general day-to-day support and traditional home visits between preschool teachers and their students and families, the new staffer will help parents create positive learning environments at home, cultivate impactful parental engagement in their child’s school and activities, and make connections for them with essential community and social resources. The Family Liaison will also be organizing a new preschool parents group to deepen community relationships and provide essential feedback.

“All of our preschool’s growth and refinement now help us build more personal relationships, increase student stability, and better prepare them for kindergarten,” said Hutchison. “We are always expanding opportunities for our families and with our community partners.”

Warren City Schools Preschool space remains available for 2017-218 academic year. Register by calling (330) 675-4321.

Social and Emotional Learning Skills Are Life Skills

Social and Emotional Learning for Life, the third in an ongoing educational workshop series hosted by We Are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP), shared with area community and non-profit leaders the importance of teaching other adults and youth how to govern emotions and defuse conflict for educational and life-long success.

“Strong communication skills are at the heart of social and emotional learning strategies, and how we choose to use those skills is extremely important,” explained Jill Merolla, Warren City Schools SEL Director, as well as Supervisor of Community Outreach & Grant Development. “Respect and peaceful resolution ensure our students remain on task, improve performance, and maintain good behaviors.”

Social and Emotional Learning involves teaching and facilitating skills that students and adults need to be successful at home, at school, and in the workplace. When students and adults have social and emotional skills they are self and socially aware, and have the ability to manage themselves both independently and while interacting with others. They can listen to perspectives of others, use positive communication, be aware of cultural issues and differences, set and achieve goals, and take personal responsibility for they learning.

Future educational workshops will be held this fall on topics determined by series participants. Write to info@EOEPartnership.org with a subject line including Educational Series for more information visit online at www.eoepartnership.org/resources/eduseries.

Building Strengths Overcomes Trauma, Cultivates Success

Community and non-profit leaders from local school districts, area churches, child care providers, and other organizations explored how to identify and emphasize personal strengths, relationships, and crucial opportunities to help young people succeed during today’s Building Resilience to Overcome Trauma workshop, the second of an ongoing educational series hosted by We Are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP).

 

“Anyone can have a powerful impact on children’s behavior,” said Sarah Braun, EOEP Network Action Team Manager and workshop facilitator. “Helping them develop strengths – or build assets – is relatively easy. There are plenty of opportunities every day to engage, encourage, and empower children.”

 

From her extensive experience clinically supporting children in a variety of professional and academic settings, Braun shared with workshop participants a strengths-based resiliency framework for healthy youth development used to assess and address the potential effects of trauma on children’s’ attendance, behavior, relationships, and performance. They learned how to build developmental assets, spread across eight broad areas of human development, in children at home, in schools, in their neighborhood, and across the community. The workshop also explored how caregivers and instructors can maintain their own self-care to avoid compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.

 

The next session in the series, Social and Emotional Learning for Life, will teach leaders strategies for helping youth recognize and manage emotions, develop care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively. The ability to govern emotions and defuse conflict then allows children to remain on task, increases good behavior, and improves performance.

 

Jill Merolla, Warren City Schools Supervisor of Community Outreach & Grant Development, will lead the April 11 session, also to be held 10 am – 1 pm at Warren City Schools Administration Building. She provides the district with immediate crisis management and support, along with managing counseling, family coordinators, and community liaisons.

 

Future educational sessions will be held this summer on topics determined by series participants. Write to info@EOEPartnership.org with a subject line including Educational Series for more information, or register online at http://www.eoepartnership.org/resources/eduseries.

Trauma Resilience and Social, Emotional Learning Classes Next for WAW, EOEP Education Series

We are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP) announced today the second and third sessions in their continuing education series for community and non-profit leaders. The initial session on February 21 shared ways to add engaging, entertaining, district-aligned mathematics curriculum into existing student after-school programs.

The next session, Building Resilience to Overcome Trauma, will empower adults to assess and address the potential effects of trauma on children’s’ attendance, behavior, relationships, and performance. Anyone working with young people – child care providers, educators, youth leaders, coaches, mentors, and more – can benefit from using this strengths-based resiliency framework for healthy youth development, while also learning how to maintain their own self-care to avoid compassion fatigue and secondary trauma.

The March 28 session, held 10 am – 1 pm at Warren City Schools Administration Building, will be facilitated by Sarah Braun, EOEP Network Action Team Manager. She has extensive experience clinically supporting children in a variety of professional and academic settings, serves as an adjunct professor with the Department of Social Work at Youngstown State University, and holds a Master of Science in Social Work from Columbia University and Bachelor of Arts in Community Health and Sociology from Brown University.

The third session, Social and Emotional Learning for Life, will teach leaders strategies for helping youth recognize and manage emotions, develop care and concern for others, make responsible decisions, establish positive relationships, and handle challenging situations effectively. The ability to govern emotions and defuse conflict then allows children to remain on task, increases good behavior, and improves performance.

Jill Merolla, Warren City Schools Supervisor of Community Outreach & Grant Development, will lead the April 11 session, also to be held 10 am – 1 pm at Warren City Schools Administration Building. She provides the district with immediate crisis management and support, along with managing counseling, family coordinators, and community liaisons.

Future educational sessions will be held this summer on topics determined by series participants. Write to info@EOEPartnership.org with a subject line including Educational Series for more information, or register online at www.eoepartnership.org/resources/eduseries.

Skills Summary Smooths Transition to Kindergarten

In partnership with Child Care Connection, Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP) is expanding efforts to ensure students smooth transition from preschool to kindergarten, providing training today at Kent State University at Trumbull for childcare teachers and administrators alongside their colleagues from area school districts.

EOEP Early Childhood Network Action Team launched the Preschool Transition Skills Summary (PTSS) program late in the 2015-2016 academic year, engaging eleven preschools with other community partners. Transition skills forms were completed for nearly 100 students, helping preschool staff and parents transfer information about individual student’s strengths and opportunities for improvement to kindergarten teachers and elementary school administrators. Aligned with Ohio’s Early Learning and Development standards, the PTSS form identifies students as on track, developing, or beginning to develop skills and strengths in language and literacy, social emotional, cognition general knowledge, math, social studies, science, physical well-being (hyphen?) and motor development, and approaches toward learning.

The training expands the PTSS program to reach even more students in more schools as they conclude the 2016-2017 and begin the 2017-2018 academic years. Thanks to local, state, and national program support, EOEP is broadening its collaborations with Child Care Connection, State Support Team Region 5, and other community partners to offer joint preschool and kindergarten teacher training, peer teacher mentoring, and related family engagement activities during the upcoming school year.

“By encouraging families to read with young children, aligning education strategies, and engaging families in meaningful district-wide activities, we work to have students who perform better in school and on standardized tests,” said Stephanie Shaw, EOEP Executive Director. “Our goal is to have families become more active partners with local preschools, school districts, and community service organizations to ensure student success, cradle to career.”

Math Matters in After-School Programs

We are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership (EOEP) launched today a new four-part educational series for community and non-profit organization leaders to develop the necessary skills, process, and resources to adapt and thrive in a new global environment. The first session shared ways to add engaging, entertaining, district-aligned mathematics curriculum into existing student after-school programs.

“There are so many ways to engage youth in fun math activities, both in and out of school,” explained Stephanie Shaw, EOEP Executive Director. “These activities often draw them toward math instead of pushing them away. It also helps them learn to solve problems and reason logically, improving their learning and performance.”

The first session was facilitated by Dr. Kim Yoak in the Warren City Schools Board of Education offices. Dr. Yoak spent a decade as a K-12 mathematics consultant for Stow-Munroe Falls City School District, and is now an independent specialist working with the Warren City School District and across Ohio, focusing on empowering students and educators with deep learning experiences in mathematics.

Participants from the City of Warren, local school districts, area churches, and other non-profit organizations learned how to encourage after-school program students into a “growth mindset,” praising their math efforts as well as achievements. They discussed in single large and then smaller groups how math is about creativity, connections, and communicating, where questions are really important and mistakes are valuable opportunities for them and their classmates. The group also reviewed how math is more about learning then performing, and depth of understanding is more critical than swift completion.

In addition, the class considered eight standards for mathematical practice from the Common Core State Standards. In addition, Corrie Adams of The Raymond John Wean Foundation shared with participants’ valuable information and examples of the Foundation’s Educational Opportunity strategic priority. The Foundation prioritizes systematic change initiatives supporting Warren and Youngstown City School students’ academic success, primarily in early childhood readiness and access, attainment of skills that improve student outcomes, and readiness, access, and completion of postsecondary education and job training. This educational series was designed to support the alignment of the Foundation’s grantees with the work that takes place in local school districts.

Future educational series sessions will focus on social emotional learning, capacity building, and other topics will be held during winter and spring. Interested community leaders can find out more by writing to info@EOEPartnership.org with a subject line including Educational Series.

Educational Series to Support, Train Local Non-Profit Organizations

We Are Warren and Eastern Ohio Education Partnership invite community and non-profit organization leaders to join us for a new four-part educational series designed to help develop the necessary skills, processes, and resources to ensure they can adapt and thrive in a new global environment.

 

The first session, Aligning Mathematics with After-School Curriculum, will be facilitated by Dr. Kim Yoak at 10 am, February 21, 2017, in the Warren City Schools Board of Education Technology Lab. The 90-minute session will show ways to implement engaging, entertaining, district-aligned mathematics curriculum into existing student programs. Subsequent sessions on social emotional learning, capacity building, and other topics will be held during winter and spring. Light refreshments will be served.

 

With a strong track record of community engagement, Corrie Adams of The Raymond John Wean Foundation will share with participants valuable information and examples that represent the Foundation’s Educational Opportunity strategic priority. The Foundation prioritizes systematic change initiatives supporting Warren and Youngstown City School students’ academic success, primarily in early childhood readiness and access, attainment of skills that improve student outcomes, and readiness, access, and completion of postsecondary education and job training. This educational series was designed to support the alignment of the Foundation’s grantees and the work that takes place in local school districts.

 

Interested community leaders can discover more information and RSVP for the educational series by emailing their name, title, and organization name to info@EOEPartnership.org.

Page 1 of 2
1 2