I have no idea how my car works. I drive it to work every day. But I don't appreciate the engineering and production skill that went into making it run so smoothly.
I was thinking about this when I was thinking about the Kindergarten Canvass. This was a massive undertaking, concluded last Thursday, September 23, in which 216 vounteers knocked on 1,491 doors and connected with 1,195 families. (Actually, these are near-final numbers -- we're still waiting for one final route's results to be counted.) Nevertheless, we know we went to the homes of 82% of the families of New Haven's kindgergarten students, and that we had an astounding 48 percent contact rate.
What most of the volunteers saw, and what the families saw, did not reflect the amazing amount of hard work that went into making this happen. For months before the canvass, key personnel from New Haven Public Schools, New Haven Promise, the City of New Haven, and United Way of Greater New Haven (which includes those working on the Boost! program in 10 New Haven public schools) met to map out the canvass strategy.
The group had to analyze school data to figure out how many students and families would be registered for kindgergarten.
They had to figure out how many volunteers, in pairs, it would take to knock on every door.
They had to figure out how long it would take them.
They had to figure out how to find those volunteers, keep track of them, follow up with them.
They had to analyze the addresses of the families, and break them down into small, walkable routes for the volunteers.
They had to make sure they had enough Spanish speakers for families they knew were not proficient in English.
They had to produce material to leave with familes, information that would help make their school experience positive, like a refrigerator magnet with important school-related phone numbers. They knew they'd need something to hang on the door to let the families who weren't home know the volunteers had visited. They knew they needed a form to fill out for families that had questions or concerns that the volunteers coudn't answer.
They knew they wanted to leave something for the new students. They settled on a book: one in English, one bilingual.
I know I'm leaving a lot out. But you get the idea.
In my role at United Way, I had a front row seat for this massive effort. It was spearheaded by people who are incredibly dedicated to the task at hand -- reaching out to parents to help get them connected to their school, and to help them get excited about their child's education. And therefore, to their child's future. I won't name them here because it is a long list and I don't want to leave anyone out. But they know who they are.
The community came together. The unprecedented New Haven School Change Initiative has the support of key players: City Hall, New Haven Public Schools, and the teachers' union -- and, more and more, as the work to reach out to the community continues, New Haven parents and families.
To paraphrase Jon Landau writing about Bruce Springsteen, I have seen the future of New Haven schools, and it is bright.