by Marilyn Lambert, WMAN Board Member and Vice President, Community Affairs
Because of the budget crisis in 2013, our community joined forces with our neighborhood public schools to help minimize the impact of those cuts on the children. At the beginning of the school year, the Mt. Airy Schools Coalition (MAUSA, WMAN, and EMAN) initiated a drive to gather much needed basic supplies for the elementary schools in the Northwest. Seeing the need for further assistance, WMAN made an additional financial contribution to the three schools in West Mt. Airy (Henry, Houston, and Lingelbach) to help them expand and strengthen their home/school associations.
Here are a few examples of how one of those schools, and the community around it, came together to help address the crisis facing our schools.
Henry Houston began the new school year with a new principal – Mr. Reginald Johnson. Mr. Johnson introduced B.A.S.E. = Behavioral, Academic, Social, Emotional Expectations – the core values that could provide a framework to guide students, parents, school personnel, and community in being a part of a learning organization. The gathering of students in the school yard each morning (weather permitting) set the tone for the day. At the end of the day, a similar gathering took place to review the day and provide reminders for the importance of representing Houston in a positive manner as students move through the neighborhood to go home.
Along with the principals from Henry and Lingelbach, Mr. Johnson volunteered to invite realtors to participate in a tour of Houston. Visitors, who had little or no knowledge of local public schools, found a busy school … active, engaged students who were excited about what they were learning. The biggest surprise was found in the music classroom. A music technology lab enables students to record and produce CDs …and by the way, 50 CDs, recorded and produced by the students under the label Rural Lane Records, were sold at Mt. Airy Day this May. Upon leaving the school one realtor was heard to say, “I’d like to go back to elementary school again.”
Be informed, be engaged, be active…check out the new website: www.houstonnation.org for additional examples of the teaching and learning that is taking place at Houston School.
What follows is evidence of the renewed and expanded support by the community and near neighbors. It demonstrates Mt. Airy at its best.
Library – Volunteers from the community cleaned out, cleaned up, and began to refurbish the library so that it is an inviting space for the children to use. Old and worn out books were replaced by donations from C.H. College and Springside School.And now community volunteers have a suitable space to provide tutoring support in reading and math.
MLK Day of Service brought a large group of volunteers to Houston to spruce up both the inside and outside of the school.
Home School Association: With some financial support from WMAN, the Houston HSA has been working hard to strengthen its membership. One example of this effort is the garden project that brought students, parents, and neighbors together this spring to plant a flower garden in the school yard. During the summer vacation, near neighbors will be tending and watering the garden.
Houston Playground – The playground in the yard at Houston had fallen into disrepair and the School District made it clear that it needed to be refurbished or torn down. A committee was formed to support the restoration of the existing structure. Fundraising efforts, sweat equity and the determination of the community came together to provide a wonderful playground facility for all of the children of this neighborhood.
SAC – A School Advisory Committee was formed in the fall of 2013. It consists, of parents, teachers, community representatives, and school administrator. This committee was established following the guidelines provided by the School District.
These are only some of the examples that demonstrate how when all stakeholders come together, we can provide a safe, exciting, and productive learning environment in our neighborhood, public schools.
Plans for 2014-2015???
After only one year at Houston, Mr. Johnson will be moving on to another school. At the time this piece was written, a new principal had not yet been appointed. However, what we do know is that the energy, enthusiasm, and collaboration that the children, their families and the community have demonstrated this year will continue. A new principal will be fortunate to call Henry Houston “home.”