Community Schools: Part 4
By Sally Absher
For our final segment on Community Schools, The Focus visited Green Magnet Academy and met with Community Resource Coordinator Destiny Glover. Green is completing year two as a Community School. Glover came to Green from Vine Middle, where she served as the Campus Manager for Project Grad from 2007 – 2013. Growing up, she attended Sarah Moore Greene, South Doyle, and Austin-East. She was the first person in her family to attend college, and is dedicated to bringing her experience and message of hope and a bright future back to the community.
Green is dual-hatted, functioning both as a Community School and an elementary STEAM Magnet Academy focusing on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math with Arts Integration. Green is one of three Knox County schools offering an extended school day (the others are Vine and Austin East). Green students attend school from 7:30 to 3:30. The extra academic time is designed to provide students with more instruction in reading and math, and opportunities to participate in enrichment activities.
Green is located on Town View Drive in the First District. According to TN.gov/education, the most recent statistics from 2013-2014 show that 78.7% of students are Black or African American, 18.6% are White, and 2.1% are Hispanic or Asian. Over 96% of the students are economically disadvantaged, and students with disabilities make up 17% of the student body. This year a number of students from Knoxville’s Burundian refuge community were zoned to Green.
Green students have struggled academically. Last year Green was listed as a priority school – one of the lowest 5% of schools in the state. The school had an overall TVASS composite score of 1 for the 2012-2013 and 2013-2104 school years, and received Ds and Fs in academic achievement. Generational poverty, abuse, and unmet medical and mental health needs are some of the barriers that Community Schools are designed to help students, their families, and the whole community, overcome.
In partnership with the YMCA, the after-school program operates Monday-Friday from 3:30 – 6 p.m. Currently, about 60 of the school’s 365 students take part in the YMCA program. Students (and parents, and members of the community) are given the opportunity to eat dinner at the school. Through partnership with the YMCA, Green also offers a summer program, with summer school in the morning and fine arts academy in the afternoon.
Students in the after-school program have the opportunity to participate in enrichment opportunities and clubs, including STEM Scouts, Knoxville Museum of Arts, Modern and West African Dance, Nutrition Education Activity Training (N.E.A.T.), Robotics, Art, Bird Watching, Young Chefs, Violin, West African Drumming, Boy Scouts, Gardening, and more.
Programs for parents are still in the planning stages. The first step is to gain the trust of parents, many of whom did not have a positive school experience themselves. Eventually Green, like other Community Schools, will build up the parent component – educational classes, financial training, GED, resume workshops, and other enrichment courses. “Right now, we are trying to meet parents where they are. We have to get parents comfortable coming into the building,” said Glover.
Programs and services provided at Green through the Community School include Parents as Educators; YMCA after-school care, mental health counseling through Helen Ross McNabb, a full-time nurse and nurse practitioner one day a week from Vine, and the newly launched ELGIN dental program.
Many students have never been to the dentist. Dental screening is offered to all students, but parents must complete a permission form. Western Heights Dental is providing follow up dental services for three hours every Thursday in their office. If the child has is covered under TennCare, their insurance is billed. ELGIN Foundation picks up the cost for those without insurance.
Green Community School has a long list of community partners. St. John’s Episcopal Church has been instrumental to their success, providing volunteers, resources, and funding. St. John’s donated Thanksgiving baskets, angle tree gifts, and Christmas stockings for every child. They provide funding for nationally recognized artists from Knoxville’s Community School of the Arts (CSA) to provide dance, art, and music instruction.
We visited the school the day before last Thursday’s Evening of the Arts performance, so many of the regularly scheduled clubs were not meeting. It was music day, and musician Ben Maney, an instructor at CSA, was rehearsing music for the performance with several students.
We also met Linda Hill, a teaching assistant at Green. Hill is a member of The Carpetbag Theatre, Inc. (CBT). Founded in 1970, CBT is a corporation of writers, artists, dancers and musicians. She told us, “Invention is the outcome of creativity.” Sadly, with today’s emphasis on student achievement and standardized tests, many schools are cutting creative arts programs.
It may take several more years to see statistically significant academic gains, but we anticipate that Green will see improved academic scores, decreased disciplinary issues, and improved attendance rates for the students involved. The consistency and personal relationships provided through the community schools program help instill a sense of self-worth and confidence for both the student and the family. The community is strengthened, and the neighborhood is preserved. More than vouchers, charters, year round school or balanced calendar, community schools meet the needs of the students right where they are, every day.