The West Hartford Board of Education received the good news Tuesday night that the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving has awarded the West Hartford Public Schools and The Bridge Family Center a three-year, $170,000 grant from the Brighter Futures Initiative.
Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment Dr. Nancy DePalma; State Sen. Beth Bye in her role as coordinator of the "Great by 8 Community Partnership"; Director of the Family Resource Center Deborah Zipkin; and Bridge Family Center Executive Director Margaret Hann were on hand to make the announcement.
Bye said that the grant "recognizes the quality of the programming at the Bridge and the value of the Family Resource Center." The grant will allow for another Family Resource Center to open at Webster Hill Elementary School as well as for expansion and enhancement of the existing Family Resource Center at Charter Oak International Academy as part of the school's renovation or rebuilding.
In addition, the grant will allow for the creation of a community-based parent committee in order to develop future parent leaders and provide support for additional outreach to families.
The grant will also provide funding for professional development for parents, teachers, and community based providers in areas shown to improve student performance.
"It will give parents a chance to step forward to help," Bye said, and will be very community-based.
Bye said that the transition between preschool and kindergarten is very important to a child's future success. The grant, she said, will help provide parents with the information they need about what it takes for their kids to be successful by bringing in experts to educate parents and teachers.
There is a fourth "ancillary" piece to the grant, Bye said, which is the exploration of using an "early development index" – a tool for kindergarten teachers. The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is interested in piloting this tool, and West Hartford may become one of the pilot programs, she said.
In response to a question from Board Chair Bruce Putterman about why Webster Hill was selected as an expansion site for the Family Resource Center, Zipkin said that it had been requested by the school, and the early learning playgroup already started meeting last week.
"Of the 11 families attending, nine speak a language other than English," Zipkin said, adding that one of the families took a bus to get to Webster Hill to attend.
DePalma, who said that one of the things she would love to see in West Hartford before she retires is a "Pre-K through 12 system," is very pleased that the district was chosen for this grant.
Bye said that the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving sees West Hartford's school system as "cutting edge," and thanked Superintendent Dr. Karen List for her leadership.