Tracey Dann is a 2012 School Reform Blogging Fellow for RI-CAN.

Last week I held a new baby and listened to the usual flood of comments. “He has daddy’s nose.” “He has mommy’s chin.” “He smiles just like his brother.” Family pride stems from identifying our similarities. Yet today more than ever, families are not bound by simple genetics, but by other similarities such as goals or culture. Blackstone Valley Prep is a family because we share one mission: we are putting 100% of our children on a path to college. When our mission becomes the focus for every parent, student and teacher, we cannot help but think of one another as family.

Our families come in all different shapes, sizes, languages, even towns. The most effective way to set a unified goal for each and every family is through the things have in common: teachers and their classrooms. But once that goal is set, parents can be a great resource for one another along our children’s journey. No matter what a child’s background, it is easier to have a successful eight-hour day at school if a child has a stable sixteen hours at home. I cannot help with the eight hours of teaching within the classroom. I do not have the expertise. But I can help with the sixteen hours at home.

I am the co-chair of the Blackstone Valley Prep Family Leadership Council. A parent teacher organization can be so much more than fun and fundraising, but it has to put family first. When someone in your family is sick, we bring them food. When someone is between apartments, we help with their scholar’s laundry. When someone is out of work, we help them network and encourage them until they get back on their feet. When a scholar is struggling in class, we help one another with both formal and informal homework help nights. We teach our children math games and hold anti-bullying seminars. As our teachers work to determine the best practices to use within a classroom, we work together to determine the best parenting practices within our homes. We do anything we can to help one another because a stable home means a stable scholar. In the end, everyone rallies to keep our children on a path to college.

It is easy to see the effects of a strong school family on the individual scholars. But the unified mission echoing so loudly through the halls of Blackstone Valley Prep is heard not only by the students, but also by the parents at home. There are at least a dozen parents who have decided to pursue either a GED or higher education since their children started at BVP. I am amazed at how quickly efforts to encourage scholars in a classroom trickle up to their parents and out into the community. Yet it all begins in a classroom with a family of teachers, parents and students focused on one thing: putting every child on a path to college.

Tracey Dann is a 2012 School Reform Blogging Fellow for RI-CAN. Tracey is the proud mother of one second-grader and two first-graders at Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy. As a parent and substitute teacher, Tracy has seen what both traditional public schools and public charter schools have to offer for the children of Cumberland.


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