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Eric Jones: Excerpt from Celebrate CPS Remarks

Excerpt from Eric Jones’ remarks at this year’s “Celebrate CPS” event
April 30, 2015

(Portions in italics indicate additions for purposes of this format)

A core belief informing the work of Community Partnership School asserts that talent, smarts, and want-to exist in every community, no matter the zip code. But data highlighting the situation for many in Philadelphia could lead one to draw a different conclusion about this, the “cradle of liberty.”

In Philadelphia, more than one in four lives in poverty. Children are disproportionately affected, with more than one in three children under the age of 18 living below the federal poverty level. Poverty can be directly linked to a person’s literacy level.

It’s not surprising then that Philadelphia’s graduation rate, despite significant gains over the past decade, is still around 65 percent, 15 percentage points lower than the national rate. And over half of the adult population is low-literate, which means they’d struggle to complete a job application.

Poor literacy levels are strongly correlated not only with poor academic outcomes, but negative impacts that last a lifetime.

This profile characterizes the neighborhood in which Community Partnership School is located and too many neighborhoods throughout our region.

We know the long-term impact of quality schooling, after school and summer programming, and quality parenting. And not just for kids and their individual families, but for the social fabric, for the common good. We know that every child needs this kind of guidance and support. But we also know that children from neighborhoods like the one in which CPS is located are least likely to get it.

While dialogue and debate around what to do about this reality have value, at Community Partnership School we’ve said we can’t wait for stakeholders to agree on a way out. There’s an urgency here demanding our immediate attention.

So we’ve come up with a viable solution: a high quality and affordable early childhood/elementary program primarily for families in our neighborhood and neighborhoods like it; an intimate 7:1 student teacher ratio that allows everyone to know everyone’s name; a place where well trained, mission driven educators and volunteers initiate partnerships with committed and willing parents and guardians; a community where shaping children who develop strong cognitive and social/emotional skills, as well as a strong sense of agency – a belief that I have the power to create/to produce a desired result – takes place every day.

And the partnership extends more broadly. To effectively do our work, we depend on the generous contributions of many supporters like you. Individuals, families and organizations that open doors on our behalf, that bring their know how to bear in support of our work, that attend programs we host like this one and make generous financial contributions. Our work works because of a broad network of civic-minded community members – and folks who just care about kids – galvanized around the idea that we can and must do more for all our children, no matter their zip code, and that doing so is in everybody’s interest.

It’s hard for any child to slip through the cracks when surrounded and supported by this kind of network. And we have found that kids are better positioned to access and maximize social capital when they’re prepared this way.

We look forward to telling you more about our ambitious work and, moving forward, talking with you about our transformative plans for the future.

In the meantime, all the best for a rejuvenating summer!

Volunteer Spotlight: Carlana “Carly” Brown

Overlooking the last year, I am astounded by how much has changed in our lives.  [My husband Charlie and I] are your typical retired couple trying to find something to do with extra time.  Living in an apartment leaves us time on our hands without the need to mow a lawn, clean out the garage, or scour out any overflowing gutters.  We decided to use the time to give back to our community.  The question was, where would we do this and what was our first step to fulfill our desires?

Through online research, Charlie found CPS and began volunteering in Ms. Flores’s kindergarten class. It started out with Charlie getting juiced with helping students with reading and comprehension, and figuring out mathematical equations.

Hearing his stories got me excited. I decided to find out if there was a way I could help CPS with the skills that I am developing within the scope of copywriting.  I met with Heather Lewis, Advancement Associate, and took a tour of the Judson Street facilities.

What impressed me the most during the visit was the students. When we walked into one of the classrooms, two children came up to us, introduced themselves and gave us an overview of what their classmates were working on for the day.  I was impressed by their knowledge, speaking ability and self-possession – while speaking to a complete stranger!

During my time, I helped out with tasks in the Advancement Office. Throughout my time and Charlie’s, we found that CPS treats their volunteers with respect and care.  Members of the CPS community were always telling us how much we are needed and helpful with what we do for the school at large.  That reinforcement made me fall in love with Community Partnership School, and I have treasured coming here every week.

This experience has made 2015 a memorable year for me and my husband.  Thank you Heather, Ms. Flores and all the nice folks at CPS, too.

Celebrate CPS: An Evening in Tuscany

This past April, CPS held its annual “Celebrate CPS” fundraiser honoring board member Jeff Benjamin. More than 450 CPS supporters attended the Tuscany-themed event at Vie for a festive evening of cocktails, dinner, and auctions to benefit the students of CPS.

Confident and upbeat in anticipation of their performance later in the evening, fourth grade students greeted guests as they arrived at the venue on a gorgeous spring evening. CPS staff and Event Committee members, members of the Young Friends of CPS, parents, and weekly school volunteers helped ensure that the night ran smoothly. Many members of the CPS faculty, staff, and board were in attendance, along with new and longtime supporters alike.

During dinner, fourth grade kicked things off with a performance of the song “One Day” by Matisyahu, originally performed for the CPS Winter Concert. One student, Jordan, shared about her experience at Vetri Eatiquette and the lessons she has taken away from the Friday lunch program. Alumnus Zahir revealed how CPS helped him overcome his personal struggle and helped him get to where he is today (click here for more about Zahir).

This year’s honoree, CPS board member Jeff Benjamin, was presented with a citation from Mayor Nutter’s office in recognition of his unwavering commitment to Philadelphia’s school children. In his remarks, Mr. Benjamin discussed his journey to becoming a champion for education, and how he was taken with CPS from the first time he visited and saw the students in action. He stated that a “good enough” education isn’t good enough for Philadelphia’s children and urged the audience to take part in ensuring access to a quality education by participating in the CPS Scholarship Fund, which helps keep tuition affordable for families by subsidizing the cost of the student’s education.

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Events like Celebrate CPS not only help generate needed revenue for operating support, but help to “friendraise” for the school by spreading the word about the work CPS is doing to provide a high quality and affordable education alternative in North Central Philadelphia.

Event sponsors included Jeff and Janine Yass, John and Leigh Middleton, and Philadelphia Financial. For a full list of sponsors, click here.

The evening grossed over $425,000, and was a memorable evening for all.

Reader’s Theater

Written by Marlis Kraft-Zemel, CPS Music Teacher

reader's theater

Reader’s Theater is a perfect project for second graders! Proud of their reading skills, they can be narrators, while other children fill in the story with imagery and music, or in our case puppets — a great first step to “being on stage” without having to act.

The story was chosen to go with their study of Greece where to this day sheep graze in the rural landscape. Students expanded their vocabulary, learned about sheep and shepherds, and trades like carpentry, blacksmithing, pottery and weaving from YouTube clips. They sketched characters to make puppets and painted the backdrop with Ms. Jakab. They also identified places in the story where sound effects would enhance the telling and brainstormed the lyrics for our song based on one girl’s wistful singing of: “If I could be a carpenter….”

I saw such growth in their awareness and perseverance needed to put on this kind of play. Many layers of the curriculum came together along with the challenge to closely follow a text read aloud by a classmate. Everything hinges on the ability to focus and to work together as a team: when to bring the puppet up, ring the gong, hold up the screen, go to the next assignment, keep eyes open for the unexpected need of a classmate! And as their teacher Ms. Bechill summed up: “This second grade class totally loved it!!!  And they learned some important lessons about working together and taking pride in something they do as a group.”

Bravo to the 2nd graders and thanks to Ms. Bechill and Ms. Jakab for their support!

 

The 4th and 5th Grade Wax Museum

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Fourth and fifth grade took the CPS community back through time to recognize and celebrate inspiring African-American figures from history. Each student prepared a display and then took on the persona of the individual they learned about, in order to share their story with visitors to their station.

Each “character” had a diverse story to tell about their contribution to American society as we know it. “Billie Holiday” shared her journey to becoming a jazz legend; “Wallace Henry Thurman” told about his role as a journalist during the Harlem Renaissance; “Annie Turnbo Malone” explained her entrepreneurial pursuits as the first black female millionaire in the United States.

The students used props and costumes to help their peers and other members of the community better understand their character’s life. In addition to helping them engage hands-on with history, students reported feeling inspired by seeing the accomplishments that these figures were able to make in spite of setbacks due to their race, gender, and/or class.

We hope that our graduating fifth graders will take the lessons that they learned from participating in the wax museum with them as they graduate and go on to become the leaders of the next generation.

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Fifth Grade Tackles Being a “Square Peg” in a “Round Hole”

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This year, the fifth grade class has taken on the fun and challenging task of writing and performing an original play. The piece, called “Square Pegs, Round Holes,” takes the students’ own experiences of feeling like an outsider and uses them to emphasize the CPS values of curiosity, courage, and compassion.

The play wrestles with the hardship of not fitting in, tackling issues like racism, gender divisions, and cultural differences. However, through these difficult experiences, the characters are able to understand how their differences can also be a positive factor.

In developing the script, volunteer director Susan LaPalombara led the students through improv exercises to help generate ideas. She and Ms. Kim then helped hone their ideas into believable, compelling stories. The process helped students understand the elements of a good story, including characterization, messaging, composition, and dialogue.

“It’s really great to see them find themselves both as actors and writers,” says Ms. LaPalombara. “When you write something, you have ownership of it, and you really see that come across in ‘Square Pegs, Round Holes.’”

Though many of the characters reflect the personal experiences of the writers, the students did not always get to perform as the characters that they wrote. In the casting process, the focus was on roles that would stretch the students as actors and provide them with the opportunity to reveal a new side of themselves. The students have run with the new experience, and are beginning to add new, unscripted elements of their characters in rehearsals.

However, the process hasn’t been without its struggles. The students are employing new skills, such as memorizing lines and “covering” for each other on stage. Some students have great line memorization, but then forget to express emotion when delivering them. Meanwhile, some students are naturals at covering for missed or forgotten lines, while other students prefer to be “word perfect” and deliver all of their lines exactly as they are written.

“It’s a new learning curve for these guys,” remarks Ms. LaPalombara. “They are on stage, whether they’re performing or not, and that can be a challenge.”

But challenges are something the class is learning to embrace through “Square Pegs.” Above all, the students hope to convey the message that no matter how rough life gets or how tough people are, having a support network can help you find the courage to embrace your individuality. The play concludes with a splash of self-love from 5th grade.

“I’m really proud of them. I think that they’ve written a beautiful play.”

The original performance of “Square Pegs, Round Holes,” scheduled for Thursday, March 5th, was postponed due to weather cancellations. It was performed in the CPS Auditorium on Tuesday, March 24th at 9am and 1pm.

In Posse Teaches Engineering to CPS Students

After volunteering with our Vetri Eatiquette lunch program last spring, engineering firm In-Posse has designed and piloted an elementary engineering curriculum here at CPS! Through the new curriculum, volunteers from In Posse have introduced our students to concepts such as what it means to be an engineer, the different kinds of engineers there are, and the basics of building design and structure.

The students enhanced their understanding of the concepts they learned during in-class workshops through a tour of the facilities in the Honickman Learning Center. During the tour, they were able to identify the various kinds of structures in the building, such as pipes and heating units, and how they function.

The engineering program culminated in an Engineering Day last week, where students visited different stations to participate in engineering activities and projects.

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“It was really a success,” remarked Director of Curriculum Beth Vaccaro. “The classroom lessons were great, and the students had a great time time today. I hope they can come back next year and do it again!”

MLK Day of Service 2015

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The CPS community honored the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a Day of Service on MLK Day. The Day of Service, presented by the CPS Family Council, featured projects to benefit three organizations helping children and families in need: The Philadelphia Ronald McDonald House, Project Sunshine, and the Salvation Army. Many segments of the community turned out to CPS for a “day on,” including staff, students, alumni, families, and volunteers.

Volunteers assembled lunches and snack bags for the families of chronically ill children, created greeting cards and friendship bracelets for hospitalized children, and put together toiletry kits for displaced families. Architecture and design firm L2Partridge assisted in collecting toiletries for the kits, and employees rolled up their sleeves on the Day of Service to help with the various projects.

A brief speaking program included words of commemoration from Mr. Eric Jones, a poem from an alumnus, and a performance by current CPS students.

Team CPS Profile: Janis Estrella

2014-10-14 16.24.54Janis Estrella began teaching 1st grade at Community Partnership School in the fall of 2011. Before that, she worked at a charter school where she was frustrated by a lack of collaboration and the desire for a sense of community between students and adults at the school. She made a commitment to herself that her next school would be much more compassionate and humanistic place, and she found that at CPS.

 

Why I’m Running for Team CPS

I’m doing this because I know that the money is going to a good cause: The money raised by Team CPS will fund full scholarships for two students to receive a quality private school education at CPS.

Many public schools and charter schools focus so much on tests that they’re not able to focus on the child. Our focus is on preparing them for the real world, and giving them the tools they need to navigate the world beyond the communities they come from. It teaches them resilience.

At CPS, education is more than just a test score.

CPS is a different kind of school because here, we educate the whole child. Other schools say this, but CPS really focuses on the student’s social, emotional, academic, and physical development. We truly engage with family members and community members, and I feel like I’m making an impact on students and families who would not have otherwise had the opportunities they receive here.

I love working here, and I’m glad to help by running for Team CPS.

Janis is preparing for the Rothman Institute 8K by running 3-4 times per week. She does a combination of intramural training and distance training, and her personal time goal is 9:30 per mile.
To support Janis in running for Team CPS, please go to http://www.razoo.com/story/Janis-Estrella-Fundraising-For-Team-Cps-2014.

VETRI EATIQUETTE LAUNCHES YEAR THREE

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This year, Community Partnership School began year three of a partnership with the Vetri Foundation for Children to bring fresh, nutritious lunches to our students.  The CPS community looks forward to dining family-style each week, tasting new and exciting foods, and sharing about their favorite Vetri meals.

Meet our new cook:

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Mr. David Davis comes to us from Pittsburgh with extensive restaurant experience and a passion for healthy cooking and nutrition education. So far, he has dished up lasagna, jerk chicken, and basil risotto to rave reviews from the community. Of the new position, Mr. Davis says he’s “happy to be here, and to share a dining experience with all the students, teachers and staff.”

Meet our new volunteers:

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Mike, a current professor at Temple University with an interest in food politics and urban education, prepares to bring the entree to the dining room.

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Adia, a former director of science and math education with extensive volunteer experience with children, youth, and homeless populations, washing and drying lettuce for the day’s mixed green salad.

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Dailahn, a retired teacher who also volunteers at nearby Smith Playground, presents the main dish to the day’s Table Captains.

Amanda, a recent graduate of Dickinson College with a passion for food justice and environmentalism, assists with dish cleanup after lunch.

Amanda, a recent graduate of Dickinson College with a passion for food justice and environmentalism, assists with dish cleanup after lunch.

With such able hands in the kitchen and brand new recipes on the menu, the CPS community is looking forward to another fantastic year of the Vetri Eatiquette Program. After full bellies for the first three weeks, we can only imagine the great things to come!
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Jerk chicken with cilantro-lime rice is a brand new Eatiquette recipe this year, and was a huge hit!

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Chef David explains today’s menu: salad with tomato-basil vinaigrette, lasagna with whole wheat rolls, and fresh mango slices.

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CPS was visited by a group of volunteers from investment firm Hamilton Lane, who enthusiastically pitched in to help with food prep, dining room setup, and cleanup.

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