Principal Ivan Tolentino is joined by students of Thomas Edison Elementary School.

ETAC Region Community of Practice Updates

Two Decades of Success: One Family and Student at a Time
Thomas A. Edison Elementary School

Over 20 years ago, Thomas A. Edison Elementary School located in the suburb of Port Chester, NY, took on the challenge of creating a K–5 community school to serve 430 children and their families. Edison provides a range of services to address students and family needs that impact school readiness and access to learning. Among these services are school-based health care, student and family counseling, parent outreach and education, after-school enrichment programs, and in-service teacher training—delivered right at the school. Nearly 90 percent of Edison’s students are Hispanic, and 92 percent are economically disadvantaged. 

Edison Community School drew on parent and community concerns to design a school in which the school and community-based organizations partner to meet student and family needs. As a result of a needs assessment process, which included surveys, focus group discussions, and interviews with families and school administrators, specific needs were uncovered, such as the need for after-school opportunities to give students access to expanded learning time while parents worked; and school-based health services to mitigate absenteeism, get students insured to ensure ongoing access to health services. The assessment also revealed the need for someone to coordinate the community school’s work. Edison soon hired a community school coordinator to help secure funds, coordinate partnership activities, and serve as a liaison in addressing the needs revealed in the assessment. 

Thomas Edison 5th Graders share their Project to Help Victims of Disasters with Principal Tolentino.

Today, Edison provides integrated support through its school-based health and mental health services. The school-based health center offers screenings, vaccinations, prescription medication, dental care, nutrition and wellness education to parents, and helps families obtain medical insurance. The school-based mental health clinic provides much-needed supports for students and their families, recently helping countless students with trauma so they can engage in the learning process more easily. 

Expanded learning time is in full gear at Edison with exciting enrichment opportunities, homework help, and tutoring during the after-school hours. While this is happening, students are able to enjoy a free meal and snack. In-service training for teachers continues to hum through a partnership with Manhattanville College. Edison teachers receive site-based professional development opportunities and coaching from Manhattanville’s professors. Several teachers also serve as adjunct faculty and mentors at the college, exposing soon-to-be teachers to the operations and impact of a community school. 

Edison Community School offers parents training seminars on a variety of subjects and other opportunities for families to engage with the school. Over the years these opportunities have helped parents step into leadership roles to further the school’s mission and program needs. The school recognizes and celebrates the ethnic plurality of its families in a variety of ways, such as its family multicultural education night and a host of other educational projects. One of its standing family engagement traditions is a daily “Second Coffee Break.”

Authors and Community School Experts Santiago, Ferrara, and Quinn describe the community school experience at Thomas Edison Elementary School in “Whole Child, Whole School.”

After parents have brought their children to school, they are able to sit down and connect with teachers and other parents, often receiving answers to questions that they have about the school and learning about ways they can participate at the school. Opportunities like these help to equip and empower parents, and cultivate deep relationships all for the purpose of ensuring children’s academic and social successes. 

Thomas A. Edison has been recognized by the New York State Education Department for its innovative practices and achievement. As a result of the health center’s services, the percentage of Edison students with health and dental care coverage soared from 23 percent to 99 percent. The School’s health center provision of health care has reduced the number of school absences. Since its inception Edison has served as a demonstration site for local, national, and international folks interested in adapting the community school strategy. Given its history of success, in 2018 Edison, along with Manhattanville professors received the prestigious Claudia A. Balach Teacher Researcher Award, from the American Education Research Association for its research and collaborative partnership efforts.

The After-School Club at Thomas Edison School.

The Edison School partners with the local mental health facility Family Services of Westchester; Open Door Medical Center; Manhattanville College; and Carver Center, which provides the afterschool programming. 

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