Newark’s Roseville Community Charter School has accomplished a mighty feat: Keeping students and families engaged through the most disruptive school year in a century. How did school leaders do it? By creating deep parent partnerships with a focus on creative problem-solving. This public charter that serves about 300 children grades K-4 (98% are low-income, 10% have disabilities, 19% are English Language Learners, half are Black and half are Hispanic) is a role model in how to forge ahead through a crisis.
Worthy of note: Roseville, in the northwest corner of Newark, is one of the four charter schools that Newark Superintendent Roger Leon demanded the New Jersey Department of Education shut down. The DOE declined to follow his order. In a rebuttal to Leon’s demands the NJ Children’s Foundation* noted that at Roseville, student proficiency rates are higher than the district’s. Meanwhile, 332 children are on the school’s waiting list.
Chalkbeat describes the efforts put forth by school leader Dr. Dionne Ledford. When she and her staff noticed during remote instruction that some students didn’t have adequate furnishings, the school bought everyone laptop trays and noise-cancelling headphones. Despite the challenges in Newark, arguably the New Jersey city hit hardest by Covid-19, students with disabilities came back to in-person classes last fall and when Ledford heard about struggles with childcare, children of essential workers came back in too. Roseville offered parents workshops on parenting, financial literacy, and navigating the various computer programs used during remote school days. They had Zoom parties and read-a-thons.
When a family who had recently suffered a house fire arrived, Dr. Dionne Ledford, the school’s principal and executive director, pulled them aside. She handed the third-grader and her mother Walmart gift cards worth $1,100, which school employees had raised to help the family recover.
One family profiled is John and Oyefunmilola Dairo, whose first-grader Abigail attends Roseville. John works at a Papa John’s warehouse and Oyefunmilola is a nursing assistant. While one worked, the other supervised online instruction and Abigail never missed a day of class. When Abigail returned to school two days a week as Roseville started transitioning to in-school instruction, every evening she would ask her parents if she had “real school” the next day. “It’s my very, very favorite part,” she said.
Paula White, a former Newark school leader who heads Educators for Excellence-New York, said, “You couldn’t navigate this school year without parent partnership. In this moment, it’s a nonstarter if you’re not engaging parents.”
*NJ Children’s Foundation gave a grant to brightbeam, which supports this platform.
Laura Waters writes about New Jersey and New York education policy and politics. As the daughter of New York City educators and parent of a son with special needs, she writes frequently about the need to listen to families and ensure access to good public school options for all. She is based in New Jersey, where she and her husband have raised four children. She recently finished serving 12 years ...