Less than a week before the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year I was told I would be placed at Versia L. Williams Elementary to establish a new CIS program. Of course, I was excited about the opportunity to serve a new school but I also expected there to be tons of leg work. As a social worker and project manager with CIS, we are on the front lines and we often find ourselves promoting and implementing our school based stay-in-school program alongside teachers, parents, students, and community members. The effectiveness of the CIS program depends heavily on the partnerships we build with these individuals. So… making a good first impression is priceless!
When I arrived at my new school and began meeting with teachers, staff members, and parents, I noticed a recurrent theme. The well-being and success of students and families is the core of Versia Williams. As an educational institution, the faculty and staff work to ensure students are successful in the classroom, but they also partner with parents to help students achieve success in life. The belief that school professionals, parents, and community members can positively impact the lives of students aligns with the mission of the CIS program and is evident in the work taking place at Versia Williams.
The principal, Mrs. Whatley has formed a strong team of professionals that work together cohesively with one goal in mind, student success. To help accomplish this goal, Versia Williams has master math and reading specialists, a dean of instruction, parent liaison, counselor, school psychologist, and a CIS social worker. In addition to putting together a team of professionals, Mrs. Whatley encourages staff members to collaborate with each other, asses the needs of students and their families, and implement best practices within our specialties to meet identified needs.
With this in mind, the parent liaison and I facilitated a basic computer skills course for parents. The course covered computer basics, such as learning the names and functions of computer hardware, creating an e-mail account, and accessing parent portal (an online database for FWISD parents to monitor their child’s academic progress). Since Versia Williams is a dual language campus, the course was offered in Spanish and English. In addition to providing a computer course for parents, CIS partnered with the Tarrant Area Food Bank to assist parents in completing applications for food stamps to ensure students are not hungry when they arrive at school. The resources and partnerships for each campus served by CIS are unique because they are based upon the current needs of students.
To ensure current needs are met, CIS staff members create and implement a campus plan each semester to help students overcome barriers to success. Campus plans provide a framework for the work that CIS staff do on a daily basis. After reviewing the campus plan, principals are provided an opportunity to share comments regarding the campus plan and Mrs. Whatley’s had this to say…
“Mrs. Rodriguez has developed a thorough and comprehensive plan for our campus. Our campus plan will have a major and positive impact on our students, staff and community. We are very excited about our campus plan and Mrs. Rodriguez has been a great resource and addition to our school family”.
Helping students to achieve is the foundation of the CIS program and it is also the basis for everything we do at Versia Williams. Mrs. Whatley’s comment shows that the CIS program meets a need that many schools, families, and communities share. And as I mentioned previously, first impressions do count!
Alecia Rodriguez, LBSW
Versia L. Williams Elementary