Downes PTA wins national award
As the saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. Last week, Downes Elementar y School was recognized as a school of excellence by the National Parent Teacher Association for its work as a village comprised of parents, teachers and students.
“This family that we have here in our community is a village, and we raise all of you,” Principal Trish Prettyman told the students who
were seated in the cafeteria last Friday morning to celebrate the award. “We have many volunteers that come in that are in your family, your extended families, our staff, all of our teachers, our support staff, all of those people are the village that helped make you successful. And of course, you yourself are part of that village to help yourself be successful, too.”
Downes is one of two schools in the state of Delaware to be recognized as a school of excellence.
“Do you think any of you guys are more excited than I am?” asked Rachel Rodriguez, who served as PTA president last year. “I don’t think so,” she joked.
The school of excellence award honors schools whose PTA and administration work together on a year-long project to improve the school in a way that adheres to the PTA’s National Standards for Family-School Partnerships.
Downes’ project involved improving communication with parents. The school sent out a survey – in English, Spanish, Chinese and Arabic – to parents and families to gauge what they most wanted to see improved, and communication was top of the list.
In response, school officials created a weekly newsletter that notifies parents of what is going on in the school and includes pictures and descriptions of activities. They also began using Facebook as a way to better strengthen communication.
“We want all of your parents to have eyes and ears everywhere, right? Because they love seeing you guys, and they love being part of your education,” Rodriguez said. “We just want to make sure that everybody knows what’s going on. And that everybody can come into this building and feel friendly and not feel like they’re a stranger.”
Winning the award was a nice surprise, she added.
“This was such an awesome thing,” she said. “I received a notification when I was sitting in training and I made an audible gasp when I found out we won.”
Superintendent Richard Gregg noted that familyschool partnerships are crucial for academic achievement.
“Research shows that students do better in school when families and schools work together. The formula is quite simple: Families plus schools equals student success. In Christina, we are on a mission to educate every child for excellence, and at the heart of our mission is a renewed commitment to coming together,” he said.
State Sen. Dave Sokola and Mayor Polly Sierer agreed that it is important to recognize the positive things going on in the district.
“We need to celebrate more of this kind of stuff in our schools. We have many schools that are doing many very good things, and Downes is at the top of the list,” Sokola said.
After the assembly and a musical performance by the fifth-grade students in the Chinese immersion program, the entire class of fifth graders, who will leave Downes at the end of this year, gathered outside with staff and administration to watch the unveiling of a banner celebrating the award.
“It has been my true pleasure and honor to have been at the helm of this wonderful place for the last seven years,” Prettyman, who is retiring at the end of this month, told her students. “What a way to end with this wonderful award, letting everybody know what a great school community we are.”
Downes Elementary unveils its new banner outside of the school in front of the fifth grade class, who will graduate from the school in the spring, at a celebration last week.