Principal Denisha Logan of Harlem Park EMS (second from left) and (left to right) A+ Advisory Board Members Marianna Campagna from Girl Scouts of Central Maryland, LeSales Dunworth from T.Rowe Price, Matthew Youssef from Niles, Barton & Wilmer, LLP and Josh Saunders from Laureate Education/Walden University. Not pictured: Vanessa Coe from Urban Teachers.
By Mary Duggan
(June 20, 2017 – ANNAPOLIS, Md.) — City schools often carry a stigma about lack of opportunity and resources.
But students at Harlem Park Elementary-Middle School now have access to Wi-Fi inside and a brand new playground outside. And, across the city, students who attend City Spring Elementary-Middle School have shiny musical instruments to play and seasoned mentors to learn from.
These developments are the result of Business Volunteers’ PENCIL Partnership program, an initiative that supports city school administrators and educators with resources of the business community.
“Businesses can make a big difference in schools,” Associate Director of Partnership Strategy Geoff Stack said. “Every school already has a village that supports it in an existing community, and through our school engagement programs, we hope to increase the size of that village and the connections that are available.”
According to Stack, there is a real desire on both sides of partnership to connect, but there hasn’t always been an easy way to make that connection successful.
“Budget cuts have been happening at city schools for years now, and the first place to get cut is the central office,” Stack explained. “The Family and Community Engagement Office at [Baltimore City Public Schools] used to be upwards of 20 to 30 people, but now has a staff of less than 10.
“These folks are busy doing federally mandating reporting around Title I, so there isn’t a lot of capacity at city school’s headquarters to seek out community engagement work.”
Adopting the role of an intermediary, the PENCIL Partnership program aims to build and guide the relationships between school leaders and volunteers who may not have the means to meet. Stack’s goal is to increase their portfolio of 30 schools to 50 by 2020.
“There are big ‘aha moments’ on both sides,” Stack shared. “Volunteers quickly see how much school leaders have on their plate, how much a principal has to deal with in a given day. And, on the school side, multiple principals have said to us, ‘We had no idea there were this many people who were willing to be of help to us.’”
With community engagement on the rise, this mutually-beneficial partnership program welcomes motivated individuals within companies, and companies as a whole, who are excited to be of service to schools.
“Businesses find that volunteering is a great way to engage employees, consequently helping employee attraction and retention,” Stack said. “The new workforce is looking for partnerships like these and companies that are engaged in community.”
Following the success of the 2016-2017 school year, Stack and his dedicated colleagues will continue to assist in the effort to make Baltimore City schools a more enriching place for students to learn and grow.
“Being invited into a school is enlivening and fun, but it’s also humbling to see the challenges that are faced by city school administrators and educators,” Stack shared. “We hope that, overtime, this partnership program will help to shift the narrative to great things that are happening in urban education.”
Principal Patricia Burrell of North Bend EMS (center), and (left to right) A+ Advisory Board Members Geoff Stack from Business Volunteers, Patience Bell Hein and Stephanie Groce from North Bend EMS, Taadhameka Robinson from Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts of America, Nikki Lancellotti from Merkle Inc., Dominiece Clifton from the Baltimore Design School, Jonalyn Denlinger from the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and Monica Washington from North Bend EMS. Not pictured: Jonathan Carroll from Under Armour and Erin Stauder from Loyola University.
For more information:
Geoff Stack, Associate Director of Partnership Strategy