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Our Residents

School on the Go links school and home

School on the Go links school and home

A few times each month, Boland Elementary School Principal Lisa Bakowski makes the trek down the hill to Springfield Housing Authority’s Sullivan Apartments, where she joins Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino for an afternoon of visiting parents and children.

Together, the two go knocking on doors, meeting informally with boys and girls who attend the nearby school, and their families.

Their agenda is straightforward and simple.

“Basically, we’re just stopping in to see how folks are doing,” explained Bakowski, who heads up the school with 800 children, 50 of them from Sullivan.

Cimino added, “We’re bridging the gap between families and schools. With that in mind, we’re reaching out and meeting the parents where they are.”

Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino and Boland Elementary School Principal Lisa Bakowski reach out to parents and children in their homes.

Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino and Boland Elementary School Principal Lisa Bakowski reach out to parents and children in their homes.

The new program, called ‘School on the Go,’ is yet another collaborative effort between the school and Talk/Read/Succeed!, the program that unites two city elementary schools, Boland and Dorman, with nearby SHA developments, Sullivan and Robinson Gardens.

The home visits at Sullivan began early this year, with apartments selected mostly at random. The team fits in between two and four family visits per month, depending on how long each visit takes.

By way of a greeting, Cimino and Bakowski stay low-key, introducing themselves if necessary, and indicate they are stopping by to see how the family is faring, and how the child or children are doing at Boland.

They are careful to ask if there is anything they can do to make school a better experience. And in general, both parents and children are surprised to see their principal standing in the doorway of their home, but things warm up quickly.

“Lynne’s really good at the arrival point,” Bakowski said. “We basically say hi and ask how they’re doing.”

Sometimes there is hesitation, but that usually melts away quickly – especially if a Boland student is at home and spots his or her principal in the doorway or kitchen.

“They’re not really expecting to see the principal, and they don’t usually assume it’s just a friendly visit, even though that’s what it is,” Cimino said. “We explain why we do the visits, they are random, and there is no agenda.  We come together to informally check in about school, life or any questions they may have and how can we assist them if needed.”

Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino, parent Yomary Smith and Boland Principal Lisa Bakowski.

Talk/Read/Succeed! Outreach Coordinator Lynne Cimino, parent Yomary Smith and Boland Principal Lisa Bakowski.

For Bakowski, visiting families in their homes is a natural fit, and seeing how well the School on the Go initiative is working makes it all the better.

“It’s all about relationship building,” she noted. “Once they realize I’m not a stuffy person who sits in my office all day long, the relationship changes.

“After that, no matter what we’re talking about, they trust me. They know I’m a good person and my goal, always, is to help them.”

Parents like Yomary Smith agree that there is nothing like getting to know the school where their children go, along with the people who work there – even the principal.

“Getting to know the people at the school has really changed my relationship with Boland,” said Smith, whose daughter is a kindergartner.

“It’s a very welcome place. When I come here, I feel wanted,” she said.

In fact, Smith, like several other Sullivan parents who have gotten to know Bakowski and the staff, began volunteering in the classroom and the building. Some parents have eventually gotten jobs at the school.

Smith said the connection is not only good for her, but it has helped her daughter.

“My daughter is more focused in school now that she knows I’m here, and she sees me here,” Smith said.

For Bakowski and Cimino, the developing relationships among parents in School on the Go say it all.

“The bottom line is, it’s all about developing relationships that help our children in the classroom. We all share that goal,” Bakowski said.

Cimino added, “We see it working every time we go out on our visits.”

3002 days ago / Our Residents
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