The Patrick J. Kennedy Elementary School is a small elementary school in East Boston, established in 1893, where 97% of students walk to school. This has been a clear advantage in establishing relationships with the mostly Hispanic families who live in this tight-knit neighborhood. Each student has a spiral-bound “agenda” that goes back and forth between home and school every day, in which parents regularly sign off on homework assignments and communicate with teachers.
I found a space to park next to the school playground, where a group of children were just finishing up their gym class. Inside, Community Field Coordinator Jessica Vasquez welcomed me to the school. Among other things, she organizes student field trips and volunteers from the local Kiwanis Club to read aloud in primary classrooms every month.
Doors and bulletin boards were decorated to celebrate Dr. Seuss’s birthday, and students throughout the building were engaged in a variety of language activities inspired by his books.
Sal DiMino was teaching dance to fourth graders, who showed off their moves for me when I visited their classroom. When I asked about the beautiful solar system rug in the first grade classroom, Anna King eagerly told me how she’d recently received a grant from “Adopt-a-Classroom” which went toward the rug, a listening center, and a projection screen. Cynthia Grant-Carter proudly shared the news that fifth grade student Dianna Guerra was chosen to attend the America Scores Poetry Slam in NYC in April, representing all of New England’s participating schools. PJK students participate in soccer and poetry classes before school every day.
When I dropped by the teachers’ room, I was invited to share in a weekly luncheon potluck – what a lovely treat! This felt like a school with a clear sense of camaraderie among staff members; I wish the same for you!
Amika Kemmler-Ernst, Ed.D.