Building Vital Partnerships, Building Thriving Students

Posted by Sharonica L. Hardin-Bartley on 9/27/2023 8:00:00 AM

One U City Mtg at Pershing

Sharonica Hardin-Bartley

Fall is my favorite season for many reasons. It’s nice to be outdoors to enjoy the milder weather and beautiful autumn colors that signal change. The first full month of school has been similar. Our students and staff are adjusting to being back in school, and the world continues to change around us in bright but sometimes challenging ways. 

Our teachers are navigating new curricular resources in math, social-emotional learning and social studies. We’ve had some challenges, and yet we are seeing tremendous progress. In our district, we understand the importance of meaningful relationships, and I applaud our staff for prioritizing small moments to build bonds and bridge gaps with students.

I also applaud parents and caregivers for being present in so many ways. One U City’s first event on September 12 truly showed “this is what community looks like.” More than 700 parents, caregivers, grandparents, students, and U. City Schools supporters gathered at Barbara C. Jordan Elementary School to kick off the school year. Their intention that night to build an inclusive, loving and equitable community among all of our schools was crystal clear. 

It was also a deep reminder that there is vital power in our collective work. The golden partnership between school and home is nurtured by One U City’s growing school-family-community partnership. The research is clear: this bond between school and home improves academic outcomes. Specifically, when schools, parents, caregivers, families and communities work together, students:

  • Earn higher grades
  • Attend school more regularly
  • Stay in school
  • Are more motivated to succeed 

Family engagement isn’t a cliché or fad; it is an essential part of the schooling experience and critical to the success of The School District of University City. Parent/caregiver-teacher conferences, like the ones we hosted earlier this month, are just one way we build that link. As a system, we work diligently to be true partners in many ways. We understand and embrace that our families have varying needs, and the partnerships we build must also be varied in the way we build them. We also seek and need your input to make the partnership work. Our children are counting on us to figure this out! 

Currently, we are seeing heightened social-emotional needs among our students, caused, in part, by the tremendous impact of COVID-19. Some of our students are struggling with building a community with one another. We fully understand the responsibilities we hold as educators to nurture this essential link among our students and staff. Our trauma-informed work remains a cornerstone of this strategy. We leverage our people and deploy support where the need is greatest. And we use best practices to face these challenges and improve.

I’m proud of the collective work of our team, and yet, I acknowledge that we must remain focused and persistently work towards our goals. Seeing our new social-emotional, equitable and academic learning (SEEAL) curriculum implemented with fidelity in our K-5 classrooms is refreshing. This includes essential time in morning meetings. These meetings do not take away from instructional time but instead engage student minds and personal connections that will drive their academic learning for the rest of their day. These early morning circles help maximize instructional time. Think of it like a refreshing early morning social-emotional walk for our students that sets a positive presence for the rest of the day. 

Our middle and high school teams are partnering more intentionally to ensure consistency and clarity across the two buildings related to academic learning, social norms and expectations. Yes, we are making progress – and we know we have a ways to go. 

Now, more than ever, we must remain focused on our north star – our “Why.” Parents and caregivers, we hope you will also remain focused. We need you! I firmly believe that we can accomplish so much together. 

In that spirit of togetherness, I look forward to seeing many of you this weekend as we celebrate Homecoming. Our theme, “Hometown Showdown: I’m from the U and I’m proud!” says it all. I will see you in your black and gold! Are you ready? I am!!!