Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Blog Series: What the End of Another School Year Means to Me- A Year of Reflection and Inspiration

In my back-to-school post on BVP Musings (What the First Day of a New School Year Means To Me:  Thoughts from a Converted Comfort-Seeker and Rhode Island Mayoral Academies Chief Communications Officer), I wrote about remembering the first day of school and the initial feelings of anxiety—wanting everything to settle and feel comfortable. I reflected on how, as an adult, I realized one must embrace discomfort in order to learn and grow from experiences you might not otherwise have.

At the beginning of this school year, I was—in my own way—a new student. I had just joined the team at Rhode Island Mayoral Academies and had newly returned to my home state from Chicago after six years. I felt, once again, those old pangs of anxiety. Would my new work be fulfilling? Would I fit in? Would my co-workers think me an asset to the team?

At the time, I had no idea how much I would re-learn the lesson I had written on. It has been a year of learning, growing, and reflecting. In my previous position at the University of Chicago, I was communications director for a charter school, but I also split time with a number of other programs including the STEP literacy assessment and the Urban Teacher Education Program. In Chicago—the 3rd largest school district in the country— education “reform” is a much larger enterprise and many shoulder the responsibility of fighting for its value. Here, in the smallest state in the nation, the fight falls to the few. It has been an adjustment to be at the center of so much emotion, controversy, and misunderstanding. 

Yet, here, I have never been so humbled and inspired. Everyday, I’m moved by our mayoral academy families who have had to fight consistently in order to protect their public school choice.  It’s not right. It’s not fair. I sometimes balk at the fact that I have to ask families—repeatedly—to take yet another moment away from their lives to stand up, testify, and show solidarity. Yet, so many of you do it with PRIDE. You do it with smiles and often, you do it with tears. Tears of frustration—“Please stop saying mayoral academies don’t accept students with special needs!” Tears of gratitude—“My daughter loves school now. She doesn’t want the summer to come!” Tears of joy—“ I believe in the mayoral academies with everything I have inside me. I have seen what it has done for my children and the four communities that we pull from.”

I have come to know you—some of you very well. I have come to know your stories, your hardships and your hopes. I relish in your children’s accomplishments as if they were my own daughter’s. We’re a community—a family and I feel privileged to be a part of it.

This year has taught me, more than ever, that anything worth having is worth fighting for.  It has also reaffirmed that a worthwhile belief will cause you anxiety and struggle. And it should—or it’s too flimsy to believe in at all.  School choice matters. I believe it.  I’m willing to fight for it—though I hope we won’t have to fight forever.

My sincerest hope is that my BVP Musings next year will be filled with stories of more collaboration like the Central Falls District-Charter Compact; less “us versus them” and more  “all of us;” less battling and more celebrating; and a mutual understanding that each and every one of us ultimately wants what’s best for kids.  Until then, I wish you a restful summer (with lots of summer reading and a homework packet) and a 2014-15 school year with just enough anxiety to grow, and little enough to soak up the joy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Blog Series: What the end of another school year at BVP means to me

At the beginning of the school year, BVP Musings brought you a blog series all about what the first day of a new school year means to our leaders, families and scholars. Now, we follow-up with their reflections on the end of another successful school year!

By Jessica Bliss, BVP Elementary School 2 Parent

It seems like just last week I was telling you all about my excitement for the first day of school. Here we are coming up on the last day of the school year. What a year it has been!

My daughter has grown so much this year. She started out the year reading at STEP 5 (on the STEP Assessment), and she is finishing the year at STEP 9! Step 9!! The expected level for first graders at the end of the year is only STEP 6, and she has already reached the reading level of a second grader. She used to complain about sitting down to read, now she absolutely loves it and insists on reading to me. I miss the days of reading to her but love hearing her read to me even more. She's excelled at math and truly enjoys it. Her teachers even told me that she helps other scholars with their math. She's grown in all areas at BVP. She loves Music, Art and P.E. I love when she comes home and shares all that she's learned. Socially and academically, she is becoming all that I'd dreamed she would be. I can't believe another school year has passed.

The BVP community and FLC has put together so many fun events this year. At ES2 we had the pot luck, literacy nights, game night, a family dance and book fair, just to name a few. We've welcomed new parents and always encourage more to come and share their ideas at future FLC meetings. We've banded together and stayed up late fighting for the education that we believe in and made the new building at 52 Broad Street a reality. I'm so excited about the new building. I'm also confident that our BVP family will come together again to help our rock star teachers move to our new school!  

The end of the year is bitter sweet. My baby is growing. She is going to be a second grader! BVP is growing! I'm so proud and thankful for BVP and for school choice. My hope for the end of the year and future is that many more will be given the gift of school choice.
Lastly, we love BVP, but we love summer too!! I hope everyone-- especially the teachers and scholars-- make time to enjoy the nice weather. They've all worked so hard this year. I know that we will keep in touch with our friends over the summer! We will peruse twitter for updates. We will drive by the new building on the way to the beach or park! And don't worry, we'll work on the summer homework packet too...

Monday, June 9, 2014

The Arts: Whose Business is it?

By Michelle Turner, BVP Art Teacher and Director 

Our mission as BVP arts educators is to build world-class art and music programs at each school within our growing network.  After recently browsing our scholars’ art on Artsonia.com and attending BVP music concerts last week, I might be a bit biased for saying this, but we are SO on track with the task!  

For many, though, world-class art and music might simply mean exemplary teaching in the classroom.  However, let’s consider raising the bar and intentionally pair great teaching with vision that brings the arts to a larger audience: the community.

Paul G. Allen, Co-Founder of Microsoft once said, “In my own philanthropy and business endeavors, I have seen the critical role that the arts play in stimulating creativity and developing vital communities.  The arts have a crucial impact on our economy and are an important catalyst for learning, discovery, and achievement in our country.”  As much as the arts are integral to learning, we should always remember they are essential to building and maintaining healthy cultures and communities.

Last weekend, more than 15 artists from BVP were entered into Chase Farm’s first Vernal Arts and Music Festival in Lincoln, celebrating nature through interactive art and music performances.  Two of our budding artists received awards for their work.  With “Nature” being the theme of the contest, ES2’s Tatiana Baldinelli received a third place prize in the Elementary Division and MS1’s Serena Lincoln captured a second place tie in the Middle School Division.  We are so proud that our community called on us and we happily delivered.  Way to go BVP artists!

So, why are we making this YOUR business?  Because we have a commitment to our scholars, our mission, our communities…because we are BVP and it’s what we do. Know of an upcoming art event in your community?  Make it OUR business and contact Michelle at mturner@rimabv.org. Thank you for your continued support!