School 10 chosen National PTA School of Excellence

School No. 10 has been selected as a National PTA School of Excellence, a distinction that recognizes the strong bond that the school has forged with its families and the community. 

The school is one of just 351 schools chosen nationwide and only six in New Jersey.

“We’re super excited,” said Principal David Walker. “This came about because the school and the PTA work together for the benefit of our students. We’re a team. We have a tremendous relationship. I think that’s what it takes. We welcome their participation and they are very supportive of our staff.”

School No. 10 invited veterans from the nearby Atria Senior Living Community to join in a Veterans Day celebration in 2019 as part of the school’s enhanced community outreach.

National PTA School of Excellence is a recognition program that supports and celebrates partnerships between local PTAs and schools to enrich the educational experience and overall well-being for all students. School No. 10 staff, led by Walker and teacher Frances Czylek, started the application process in 2019 by identifying an action plan where the school could improve its outreach efforts.

“Congratulations to School No. 10 and its PTA for being selected as a National PTA School of Excellence,” said Superintendent Dr. Marnie Hazelton. “Support from our families and community are essential for our schools to be able to give our students the outstanding education and support they deserve. The teamwork they have demonstrated at School No. 10 lays the foundation to allow our students to soar.”

Walker credited the teachers and support staff for their outstanding work.

“A great big thank you to all of you for your efforts to include our families in the educational process, and for the overall support you always provide to our families and in our work with the PTA,” Principal David Walker wrote in an email to staff announcing the honor. “It truly makes a difference in the lives of our students.”

The school worked to be more inclusive of different cultures by adding cheerful signs around the building in multiple languages and using ClassDojo to communicate with families, allowing messages to be translated into 35 different languages.

“Our community and our school are evolving and changing, and it is important that we do so as well, so that we can meet and exceed the needs of our families,” Walker said.

School No. 10 fifth-graders performed for residents at the Atria Senior Living Community in Cranford for Valentine’s Day in 2020.

The school also held a multicultural night in 2019, where students and their families were invited to share the food, music, and other facets of their culture.

School No. 10 also forged a partnership with Atria Senior Living Community, which is located around the corner from the school. The school hosted residents for a celebration of military veterans in 2019, and fifth-grade students visited the senior community to sing and perform for Valentine’s Day in 2020.

Walker said that although the COVID-19 pandemic has been very difficult on staff, students, and families, it also gave the school an opportunity to put its increase family and community outreach into action to make sure everyone stayed informed and included.

“This has been a very illuminating and transformative process to undertake, we also know that our work continues, and that we can still improve,” Walker said.

Members of the Highland Avenue School No. 10 PTA at Back to the School Night in 2019.

Two School No. 10 staff members – paraprofessional Sherre Carbone and fifth-grade teacher Mary Lee – are on the PTA executive board for the upcoming school year, and Walker said together they will focus on continuing to improve family engagement supporting student success, specifically in the areas of literacy, math, and science.

“We have grown tremendously as a school as a result of our work in the National PTA School of Excellence process,” he said, “and we are looking forward to not only being recognized for the work we have done, but also committing to further improvement.”

– Story by Gary Miller

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