One Fabulous CIS Cheerleader

Today, we highlight the work of KPS Principal Carol Steiner.  She was recently honored at the seventh annual Champ celebration. Retired Judge and CIS Board President, Carolyn H. Williams presented the award. 

 

Carol SteinerCIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema describes this Champ’s presence as “positively contagious.” Carol Steiner’s enthusiasm, zest for life, and positive leadership set the tone at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School for students, parents, and staff alike. As the school’s principal, Carol embraces EVERY opportunity to reinforce a college going culture. Whether in the hallway, on the playground, or before a large school assembly, she will remind the children and their parents that because they are in theKalamazoo Public Schools, each child has the, now what is it? She’ll cup her ear and smile as the crowd shouts out: THE KALAMAZOO PROMISE!

If you’ve ever had the pleasure of being at Parkwood during the morning announcements, you will hear this Principal reminding everyone to “Choose to make it a good day!” Carol is one of those rare creatures who heeds her own advice. For the past 29 years, Carol has chosen to make every day a good day as she serves well the children in the Kalamazoo Public Schools, the last ten of those as principal and chief cheerleader at Parkwood Upjohn. In a school of 530 students, she knows practically everybody’s name. Rain or shine, she is out greeting the children, welcoming them or sending them home safely.

Carol “gets” CIS. She is the cheerleader for integrated student services. Because she knows what her kids need, she takes full advantage of the community resources CIS leverages for the school. When parents reach out to Carol for support and she sees that their need for their child can be addressed through CIS—such as therapy, tutoring, basic needs—she links that parent to the CIS Site Coordinator. Principals are busy people. Yet, she makes a point of welcoming volunteers and partners so that they feel a part of the school family.

Because of the high standards she sets, the model she upholds, Carol Steiner inspires us all not only to do the work needed for our kids, but to do it better. Call her unconventional, a free spirit, these are parts of Carol we love and cherish. You may be retiring, Carol, but you have taught us well. Like you, we choose to make it a good day for all our kids.

Carol Steiner, we thank you for helping kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Carol Steiner

Champs Among Us

(Left to Right) Ming Li, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Mayor of Kalamazoo, Bobby Hopewell
(Left to Right) Ming Li, Dean of the College of Education and Human Development, Pam Kingery, Executive Director of Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo, Mayor of Kalamazoo, Bobby Hopewell

Upon leaving our seventh annual Champ Celebration, held last week at Cityscape, one of our almost 200 guests said, “Everybody in town should experience Champs!”

We agree. Our CIS board and staff had a great time hosting the event and we want to share with everyone what these nine individuals and organizations are doing to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.

So, in the weeks and months to come we’ll introduce you to each of them. You’ll be able to read what our various presenters said about their efforts and thanks to CIS volunteer, Don Kingery, you’ll be able to see what guests saw (and missed!) through his photographic lens.

Dr. Michael F. Rice, Superintendent, Kalamazoo Public Schools
Dr. Michael F. Rice, Superintendent, Kalamazoo Public Schools

And, because we’ve had numerous requests to publish the speech given by our youngest Champ ever—fifth grader Kawyie Cooper—we’ll post her speech next Tuesday. According to Kathy Jennings, editor of Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave, Kawyie “stole the show with her words of what being named a Champ meant to her.” You can read the entire article here. And, if we can convince some of our other Champs to guest blog for us, we’ll publish their reflections here as well.

Today, though, we’ll leave you with a list of our award winners. And then, take a moment to click on the “Dear Kalamazoo” video below that first aired during the event. This video was created because throughout the 19 KPS schools that CIS is currently in, we have a number of grateful students (not to mention parents and teachers) who wanted to take the opportunity to say thanks and give shouts out to their own Champs.

Special thanks to all of our CIS Site Coordinators and CIS Site Team members (Assistant Site Coordinators, Youth Development Workers, VISTAs, and interns) who provide the infrastructure to support the hundreds of marvelous volunteers and community partners who work with Communities In Schools and the Kalamazoo Public Schools to help kids stay in school and achieve in life.

Our 2014 Champs:

Kawyie Cooper, 2014 Champ
Kawyie Cooper, 2014 Champ

Terri Aman, KPS Executive Supervisor for Transportation

RSVP through Senior Services Southwest Michigan, CIS Nonprofit Partner

Jay Gross, KPS Home School Community Liaison, Maple Street Magnet School for the Arts

Consumers Credit Union, CIS Nonprofit Business Partner

Rosalie Novara, CIS Volunteer Tutor, King-Westwood Elementary School

Radiant Church, CIS Emerging Faith-Based Partner

Kawyie Cooper, CIS Student, King-Westwood Elementary School

Carol Steiner, KPS Principal, Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School

And this year’s recipient of the Diether Haenicke Promise of Excellence Award:

Barbara Witzak, Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Services for Kalamazoo Public Schools

So, please, keep up with us at Ask Me About My 12,000 Kids to discover the Champ experience. We think you’ll agree it’s not just a one day event!

Carolyn H. Williams, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board
Carolyn H. Williams, President, Communities In Schools of Kalamazoo Board

A Dynamic Duo

_DSC0793Today we highlight the work of Joyce and Doyle Crow. These CIS volunteers were honored this past spring at the sixth annual Champ Celebration.  (This is the seventh installment of a nine part series.)

Joyce and Doyle Crow: a dynamic duo if there ever was one. For the past six years, CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema has been turning to them to help tutor children in both math and reading at Parkwood Upjohn Elementary School. Trust, she points out, is vital to empowering children to open up and change. The Crow’s establish trust early on by showing up on time each week, committing to working with the same children year after year. When one of Doyle’s student recently changed schools Doyle followed the child to Arcadia Elementary where he continues to support the student and was convinced by Arcadia’s CIS Site Coordinator, Gulnar Husain, to pick up an additional child in need.

The Crows unleash their powers upon children, showering them with abundant kindness, caring, patience, and love. Under their tutelage, children who are struggling academically, behaviorally, or emotionally, blossom.

When Jody recently called a parent to find out how she felt the tutoring with Mr. Crow was going for her son, the mother was stunned by the changes she was seeing in her child. Once disengaged with learning, her son was opening up at home, his attitude towards school improving along with his academics. “He can’t stop talking about Mr. Crow,” she said. Her son, realizing whom his mother was talking about, shouted out, “He’s amazing!”

_DSC0544Last year, one of Joyce’s students suggested that Joyce change her tutoring schedule so that she could come earlier in the week. This would give the student a chance to practice the skills she was learning from Mrs. Crow throughout the week. Joyce didn’t hesitate to rearrange her schedule. And when summer arrived and the student worried that she would lose the gains made, Joyce arranged to tutor her throughout the summer. This past fall, this young lady received her first ever ‘A’ in math.

Between them both, they have helped more than a dozen kids. Kids are smart. They know that Joyce and Doyle Crow, caring and committed adults are part of the secret to their growing success.

Joyce and Doyle Crow, we thank you for helping students stay in school and achieve in life.

Cast Your Vote For Kids

Remember to vote today!

As Dr. Pierce said, “This may be the most important vote of your lifetime. This is a big choice. Really big. It ranks up there with what cereal you should eat in the morning.”

I guess I should mention that Dr. Pierce wasn’t referring to the 2012 elections being held throughout the United States. As Parkwood’s Behavioral Specialist, Davonne Pierce served as moderator for a recent debate held in the school’s gym. He was referring to the decision facing all Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary students, staff and families: what book should represent the school?  The two nominees were Harry Potter and The Sorcerer’s Stone vs. Diary of a Wimpy Kid, the first in the series.

CIS Site Coordinator Jody Sikkema credits Maureen Cartmill, Title One Tutor, with coming up with the idea and deepening students’ understanding of the election process. “It’s a great way,” she said, “to involve families and the students are more enriched from the experience.”

Because our son attends Parkwood, my family has been paying close attention to this particular campaign. If we (both citizens and politicians) approached campaigns more like Parkwood students, we would be an even stronger country. By seeing how well the elementary students conducted themselves, I have learned three lessons I want to share with you.

Manners count.

How we conduct ourselves with our friends and opponents matters. Just because we believe our book is better than yours doesn’t mean the other book isn’t a fine book worth reading, too. Heated, yet healthy, debates were going on at lunchtime and on Parkwood’s playground, yet there was a noticeable absence of fingerpointing and smearing the other side. Maybe if we played more on each other’s turfs, like the Parkwood students do, we would be more respectful of each other’s opinions.

As grownups, we can get wrapped up in the winning. The most important part of voting isn’t necessarily who we elect to public office. What matters most is what they do once they get there. As citizens many of us have already moved on to the next contentious election.

Neatness counts, too.

Principal Carol Steiner encouraged the children to run clean campaigns and they did. Parkwood students didn’t litter their hallways with sloppy signs, careless comments, and messy truths woven with lies. We shouldn’t either. They drew beautiful pictures, wrote legibly and asked their fellow students to “Vote For Our Book, Please!”

Go simple and save.

At the end of October, the Center for Responsive Politics projected that the cost of this 2012 elections will exceed six billion dollars. Say what? SIX BILLION??!!! I can’t even wrap my head around that figure.

We could save a lot of money (and perhaps divert some of it into education) if only we  rolled up our sleeves, pulled out the poster board, crayons and washable markers. Wouldn’t it be refreshing to see home made signs by politicians hanging in the entrance way to a grocery store or on the doors of a public library instead of invading our homes through television, computer, radio, and mail?

As this election is shaping up to be the most expensive election in U.S. history, I’ve been gathering ingredients to bake brownies to help raise funds for my son’s school. I’ve been thinking how easy it seems to spend six billion dollars on elections whereas public education in our country struggles to get the stable and adequate funding it needs to educate our youth. Even if my brownies are a bestseller, they won’t, no matter how fabulous they taste, rake in the kind of dough that our kids and their schools deserve.