The staff at North Elementary in Brighton approaches the 2017-18 school year with a better sense of what families want for their chil- dren. That’s because the school’s administrators joined forces with their teachers of Brighton Educa- tion Association and volunteers from Northern Hills Church to canvass school neighborhoods and assess student needs during last school year. The group spent a Saturday morning walking through the school’s neighborhoods, knocking doors to ask families how they felt about the school, what educators were doing right and what more could be done to help students succeed. CEA and Industrial Areas Foundation (IAF) Colorado helped organize the community outreach.
Elena Mendoza, North Elementary’s assistant principal, paired up with Jill Nguyen, president of the Brighton Education Association, on the neighborhood walk. “At North, a lot of our families do work and may not have the time to come into the school. So our thought is that if they can’t make it in here, let’s go to them,” said Mendoza. “We want to get their input. As a team, we can come together and make this a great school.”
A couple weeks later, the school hosted a pancake breakfast for families to talk through what they learned about the hopes and con- cerns during the community walk. Andrew Otto, a North Elementary teacher of 19 years and a BEA member, spoke to parents at the breakfast. “We’re going to have some great programs coming up here in the near future because they’re going to be decided on by our parents. We’re here to help, we’re here to teach, and we want our parents to help run the school.”
The families met during the walk and at the breakfast whole- heartedly agreed the staff of North is doing a fantastic job helping every child succeed with high marks for caring, individualized instruction and excel- lent communication with families. The community, though, craves more before-and-after school programs for their kids, and gave suggestions on improving school safety and security.
Parent David Gallegos came to the breakfast wanting more arts and culture at the elementary level for his daughter. “My refrigerator is bare, she doesn’t bring any artwork home.” He also wants to see community walks continue, which he called “an amazing idea,” and said the breakfast was great too. “It’s very communal and there’s a lot of positive energy here. I really like the focus and topics, I’m very impressed with what’s going on here today.”
Continued support from the Northern Hills Church is invaluable as administrators and Brighton EA members move forward in 2017-18 to further enrich the school experience for students at North Elementary. Spencer Cowen, the church’s missions & outreach pastor, walked with the educators and spoke to the community at the breakfast. While he’s proud his congregation has supported North students through school supply and clothing drives, he’s ready to do more.
“Meeting basic needs is important, but we realize it’s time for doing the hard work of mentoring kids, helping out with homework and jumping in on a deeper level to make this the healthiest commu- nity possible for kids to grow up in,” Cowen said.