In a show of support for District students, more than 700 CPS employees signed up this week to make sure schools are fully ready for the start of classes on Monday, August 26.
Through “Helping Hands for the Next Generation: Chicago’s Children”, a volunteer program established this year by CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett, staff from CPS Central Office and Network Offices were deployed to 87 welcoming and reinvestment schools on August 20 and 21. Their objective was to help teachers and principals tackle the long list of tasks that must be completed for schools to be fully prepared on the first day.
Known as Beautification Days, this project was an opportunity for non school-based employees, many of them former teachers, principals, and school support staff, to help get the 2013-14 school year off to a strong start. Under the direction of the principals, they groomed landscaping, set up classrooms, shelved books, and performed various other administrative tasks to help ready schools for the return of students on August 26.
Tiffany Gholston, a staffer with the Office of the CEO, volunteered at Carnegie Elementary School in Woodlawn, organizing the student library for one fifth-grade classroom.
“In the grand scheme of things, it was a pretty small task,” she said, “but it’s the kind of thing that might not have gotten done by the first day of school, so the teacher was very appreciative.”
The project was of particular significance to Gholston, who lives directly behind Carnegie Elementary.
“Even though I live right there, this was the first time I’d ever been inside the school,” she said. “It was nice to know that I was helping CPS students from my own community.”
Ruchi Verma, Deputy General Counsel for CPS, also assisted teachers by moving and unpacking boxes at Laura Ward Elementary.
“I was glad to help the teachers prepare their classrooms more quickly than if they’d had to do it themselves,” she said. “This way, those teachers can spend more time planning for instructing students.”
Anita Muse, principal of Langston Hughes Elementary School, was grateful for the help, as it took some pressure off of her teachers and support staff.
“It’s been all hands on deck for weeks,” she said, “so we felt very fortunate this week to have even more helping hands.”
Volunteers organized classrooms, put up hallway bulletin boards, and cleaned out a resource closet in the school’s science lab.
“These were all mundane tasks, but everyone did them graciously,” said Principal Muse. “They did a fantastic job.”
Many of the staffers who volunteered as part of Beautification Days will be redeployed to support efforts on the first day of school. They will greet students and their families at the door, welcoming them back to school and doing whatever they can to assist them on their first day, thereby setting a positive tone for the rest of the school year.
“It’s great to spend time at a school helping get everything set up for the new school year,” said Dave Miranda, a Deputy Press Secretary who volunteered at Jackie Robinson Elementary. “This is a good reminder of what we’re all working for – a quality education for Chicago’s public school students.”