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Brass School sees need for neighborhood connection

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This is what the path to positive change looks like: People coming together to make a difference.

Nowhere is that more evident than at Brass Community School, where school, neighborhood and community stakeholders have been meeting once a month since last spring to help students and families.

It’s known as “CommUNITY Conversations,” and it’s headed by Building Our Future, a community group that is using data, partnerships and existing resources to bring about positive change.

At last month’s meeting, the group talked about the importance of reaching out to families in the neighborhood and having them feel connected to the school.

That’s important because for all the good things that happen in schools, they can be negated quickly by bad influences outside the school door.

One of the biggest hurdles for schools is children coming from families that don’t value education.

This could be based on bad experiences parents or siblings had in school or the feeling that school leaders don’t understand the struggles they’re facing.

To thwart such perceptions, staffers at the school made home visits to the families of their students this year. And besides talking with them about what the school can do for them and inviting them to be part of it, the staffers also presented parents with a key question: “What do you need to be successful?”

“When we asked them that question, some looked like deer in the headlights,” teacher Andrea Bell-Myers said, saying that many parents have become so accustomed to not being heard that they feel “disenfranchised.”

Brass School Principal Joel Kaufmann agreed.

“I’ve got families that don’t want to be told what their families should look like,” he said. “They should be telling us what they need.”

Also at Thursday’s session, the group brainstormed ideas for forging stronger ties with families in the community and how to provide more help at the school.

One key “win” from these meetings will come to fruition in February when, barring any unforeseen problems, the school will start providing after-school day care.

“We need to bring families together to build relationships in the community,” said Juan Torres, coordinator of student and family engagement with Kenosha Unified School District. “We need to get to the point where neighborhood residents feel safe, informed and (the school is) involved in their daily lives.”

When it comes to fighting the negative influences outside the schoolhouse door, schools face an uphill battle.

But thanks to “CommUNITY Conversations” and other initiatives taking place at Brass and other schools throughout the Kenosha Unified School District, steps are being taken to chip away at those negative influences while simultaneously bringing the neighborhood into the school.

And when the school and neighborhood are connected, and those bonds are strong, only good things can happen.

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