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EWSD Voices for Education to Offer Grants and Engagement Assistance

January 3, 2020
ESSEX JUNCTION, Vt. - Starting on January 1 of 2020, the role of the Essex Westford School District’s Voices for Education will expand into more of a supportive role for engagement efforts both in the District and the communities that it serves. 

 

Voices for Education (VFE) has spent the last three years doing a deep dive with the community to identify what matters most. Moving forward VFE will be offering small grants and opportunities for technical assistance on engagement efforts or initiatives that are aligned with the shared values of the EWSD schools. 

 

In the spring of 2016, the EWSD Board received a three-year grant from the Nellie Mae Education Foundation to help engage the community around school matters and ensure that the community, including people who don’t usually have a say, have a voice in important decisions about the education system. 

 

At that time, a diverse group made up of 24 students, teachers, school administrators, community members, and school board representatives came together during the month of October (2016) to form a planning team, with the purpose of identifying a set of engagement goals, topics, and a suggested plan to support the new EWSD in becoming more responsive to the communities that it serves.   

 

A smaller steering committee, now known as Voices for Education, emerged and came up with the following goals: 

  • EWSD will continue to work to build a culture of trust where the voices of school and community members are connected to action
  • EWSD will engage with the community regularly on topics that are aligned with the vision
  • EWSD will provide regular opportunities for everyone (students, parents, school board, school staff and community members) to have a meaningful voice and access to open engagement on issues that matter to them

 

Those three goals continue to be relevant three years later, with the only change coming in the third bullet, as ‘EWSD will provide regular opportunities’ will now become ‘VFE will support opportunities.’  

 

Since the grant started, VFE has helped to create and lead engagement efforts in the EWSD by: 

  • Trained 23 student and adult facilitators
  • Helped improve student voice, which included working with three students who facilitated equity activities at local, statewide, and regional conferences
  • Worked to have a pair of student representatives added to the EWSD Board
  • Reached out to the community and talked to over 300 residents in an effort that led to the creation of the EWSD vision
  • Hosted: It takes A Village community forum in December of 2018
  • Provided engagement support (conversations around transportation, start and stop times, life skills community partnerships, community equity events, etc.)
  • Helped create and now support the Essex Westford Equity committee
  • Worked with EHS students to develop and now host an annual multicultural potluck dinner each spring

 

VFE will continue to support the development of a system of engagement that fosters trust and relationship building between the EWSD Board, administration, students, and the community.

 

If you are interested in working with VFE to help sponsor and offer support for an upcoming event, please reach out to EWSD Communications Coordinator Ben Dickie (bdickie@ewsd.org).