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Progress Report

Every day, throughout City Schools, students, families, staff and communities are making progress - academically, on personal and professional goals, in pursuing passions and opportunities, and in achieving the goals of the Blueprint for Success:

To build a generation of young people with the skills, knowledge, and understanding to succeed in college, careers, and community, not just here in Baltimore but in any city in the world.

Read about some of the recent progress.

Renovated and ready for results: recent ribbon cuttings unveil state-of-the-art schools

Montebello and Highlandtown celebrate!

February 03, 2023

Renovated and ready for results: recent ribbon cuttings unveil state-of-the-art schools Montebello and Highlandtown celebrate! The stool was firmly in place behind the podium. First grader Anthony Higgs Jr. stepped up, tapped the mic, and spoke confidently. “This school means so much to me, I just love this school! I love my teachers. It’s so close to the lake where my parents walk. I can’t wait to start class in the new Montebello building!” In December, Anthony, City Schools CEO Dr. Sonja Santelises, elected leaders and dozens of northeast and southeast Baltimore community members celebrated ribbon cuttings for the renovated Montebello Elementary/Middle School and Highlandtown Elementary/Middle School. The dramatic renovations, two years in the making, included bigger hallways, state-of-the-art classrooms, a new gym and cafeteria, outdoor athletic fields and learning spaces, new art and music rooms, IT upgrades, and the preservation of historic features like the original facade at Montebello. “These 21st century buildings are a testament to what our young people deserve,” explained Dr. Santelises while kicking off the ceremonies. “These buildings signal to you, young people, the promise that we see in you and the high expectations we have for yourselves and that we have for you.” Anthony is one of more than 17,000 students who are now or will soon be thriving in new school buildings as part of  the 21st Century Schools, the $1.1 billion dollar collaborative project between City Schools, the Maryland Stadium Authority, the City of Baltimore, and Maryland’s Interagency Commission on School Construction. The initiative has completed 26 of its 28 scheduled projects in what is one of the largest construction projects in Baltimore City’s history.  At the Highlandtown ribbon cutting, fourth grader Anthony Ruano told the audience, “we’re grateful to be back in our neighborhood, in a brand new space! We can learn a lot better here.” And Principal Denise Ashely emphatically noted, “I especially thank my families for partnering with us in our children’s education. It has been one amazing journey.”  For students at two schools that each are close to 100 years old, the impact of the renovations is transformational. They now enter welcoming spaces with stunning facilities and the latest technology to level up their learning. “Montebello has stood the test of time,” said Principal Troy Mitchell, “We look forward to it standing tall for much longer.”   Check out videos of both ribbon cutting ceremonies: Montebello here, and Highlandtown here. Learn more about 21st Century Schools here. More Progress Report stories. 

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Beautiful spaces for beautiful minds: artwork enhances schools

Public art collaborations build community and bring joy to Mount Royal and Lillie May Carroll Jackson

January 31, 2023

Beautiful spaces for beautiful minds: artwork enhances schools Public art collaborations build community and bring joy to Mount Royal and Lillie May Carroll Jackson  Schools are places for ideas, imagination, learning, and exploration. In schools, students are inspired by not only teachers and peers, but also by the environments in which they learn. Across City Schools, communities are creating vibrant, community-based art that sparks curiosity and helps students connect with their school and the broader community. At Lillie May Carroll Jackson (LMCJ), a school for girls in 5th to 8th grade in Clifton Park, the community wanted to make sure that students returning to in-person learning after the pandemic were entering a space where they were celebrated. The result was a community art project that enhanced their outdoor learning space with a gorgeous, colorful mural that honors Black women and girls.  Led by community artist Jaz Erenberg and funded by the Heart of the School Fund - a charitable initiative managed by the Fund for Educational Excellence that makes grants to City School principals - 350 students, families and staff members collaborated around the design of the mural. Erenberg and educators led students and families in a lesson to explore their core values and express them in phrases that were incorporated in the mural. Today, this beautiful piece of art brings the outdoor space to life! As the former principal, Rosiland Flemmings, beautifully put in her opening remarks at the mural’s unveiling, “You (students) came up with the colors and ideas, but more than anything, you dug inside of yourselves and thought ‘I live this experience everyday, so what does this mean for me?’. This space is a representation of your ideas and your work and you should be super proud about how your voice is elevated within our school community.” Students agreed. Said sixth grader Taylore Moore, “The mural makes me feel happy because it lets me know that my school cares about me.” Sixth grader Makayla Garrett added, "The quote that I came up with is ‘I can, I will, end of story.’ It feels amazing.”  To read more about outdoor learning spaces at City Schools, click here.  At Mount Royal Elementary/Middle, the “Nut & Bolt” sculpture has been a Bolton Hill neighborhood landmark since it was created 40 years ago by artist and former Mount Royal parent Arthur Benson. Last Fall, the school and neighborhood community celebrated the renovation of this iconic work of art, which has been restored to its original color and condition, thanks to a $50,000 grant from the Maryland State Arts Council.  “We worked together to make sure our kids knew we appreciated them and made our unique structure new again and bright again - all in this area that promotes art in all of its forms," said Mount Royal Principal Stephen Skeen.  Watch the video of the dedication event here. Interested in more stories of student and school community creativity? Check out these Progress Report stories: Singing, painting, and making: students build skills at Summer Fine Arts Camp Summer Arts for Learning Academy Infuses Student Learning with the Arts  “Chin up!” Harford Heights students record song and music video

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That’s a WIN! Student athletes revel in championships and accomplishments

The Fall sports season was sweet!

January 27, 2023

That’s a WIN! Student athletes revel in championships and accomplishments The Fall sports season was sweet! During the Fall athletic season, City Schools student athletes played hard and were richly rewarded for their determination and perseverance with championship titles, awards, and honors.  Congratulations to all student athletes on a great season! Roll ‘em straight: Congrats to the Bayview-based Patterson High School bowling team for garnering two gold, two silver, and three bronze medals in the 2022 Special Olympics Bowling Tournament this past fall! Winning state: The Dunbar Poets have done it again! The football team won its second straight State Championship - completing an undefeated season for the second straight year in the process. This is their 12th state title! (embed photo from tweet) Game changers:  Also at Dunbar, the soccer team won 1A Regional Boys Soccer Championship. See the celebration here. Poly and Western run away with it: The Baltimore Polytechnic Institute’s boys cross country team and Western High School’s girls cross country team each won the City Schools Cross Country Championships this year. Kudos! Hitting winners at Carver and Forest Park: Congratulations to the unified tennis teams at West Baltimore’s Carver Vocational Technical High School and Forest Park High School for earning gold in their respective divisions of the State Unified Tennis Tournament!  Shining bright with Under Armour: The Under Armour flagship store in Harbor East now has a shoutout to City Schools athletics and photos of some of student-athletes from the Brooklyn-based Benjamin Franklin High School and Forest Park High School! Check it out. Forest Park, Dunbar and Poly spike victories: The girls volleyball teams at Forest Park High School, Dunbar High School, and Baltimore Polytechnic Institute bumped, set and spiked their way to a Regional Championship this fall. Great work, teams! Middle schoolers compete: City Schools’ district-wide expansion of athletics into middle school is creating buzz! Students recently competed in the Unified Flag Football Culminating Competition and a riveting cross country meet! As they shot, scored, and ran across the finish line, athletes built lasting bonds with their peers and learned meaningful lessons about teamwork, perseverance, and taking care of their bodies and their being. Said Tonisha Montomery, City Schools Coordinator of Athletics, “These experiences are so impactful for students, particularly as we’re looking at mental health and returning from the COVID-19 pandemic. Being able to not only return to normalcy and athletics, but to do so successfully without missing a beat can build confidence, joy, and social-emotional health for students.”  Congrats to every student who played sports, had fun, and strived to be their best this past season! To learn more about City Schools’ athletics, click here.  More Progress Report Stories

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Joyful event shows the love to pregnant and parenting students

Resource fair provided giveaways, guidance and camaraderie

January 24, 2023

Joyful event shows the love to pregnant and parenting students Resource fair provided giveaways, guidance and camaraderie On a brisk Saturday morning in mid-December, the doors to Excel Academy opened wide. Curious students entered and were met with smiling faces and caring community members. They were met with music, delicious food, and tables of resources.  Most important, they were met with love.  City Schools’ first ever Pregnant and Parenting Student Resource Fair fulfilled a deep and ongoing need, according to fair organizer Dr. Rinata Tanks, City Schools’ Reengagement Center Coordinator. “We found that a lot of our pregnant and parenting students were unable to attend school,” she explained. “The fair re-engaged these students with schooling and our community while letting them know they aren’t alone. We care, and we want them to be successful. No matter their circumstances, we’re here to help.”  And students felt the love. Their reactions included: “I felt special, excited, and pampered!”  “I feel appreciated, I’m so grateful.”  “It’s so comforting to be around other parenting students!” “Anything you could imagine a young child or a new parent needing, it was there and available for them,” said Dr. Tanks. Students spent the day getting expert guidance, connecting with classmates, and visiting with exhibitors like Sharebaby and B'more for Healthy Babies, as well as helpful agencies like the Baltimore Health Department and City Schools representatives from Judy Centers and Home & Hospital. They left with a packed bag of giveaways, including diapers, wipes, body wash, clothes, and bath items - and the knowledge that they have support in their peers, in their communities, and in City Schools. Students who may otherwise feel separated from their peers were able to share common experiences. And they saw, as Dr. Tanks noted, that City Schools knows “these students want to succeed and want to come back. We’re helping them do that.”  The fair was coordinated by the City Schools Re-engagement Center, which is located at district headquarters on North Ave. The center works with students who have disengaged from schooling on ways to return to school, finish their degrees, and access resources to help them reach their goals. Over the last six years, the Re-engagement Center has served more than 3,800 students. Learn more here.  More Progress Report stories. 

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Well deserved: Students and teachers are recognized for their accomplishments

The awards, rewards and moments to soar keep coming!

January 20, 2023

Well deserved: Students and teachers are recognized for their accomplishments The awards, rewards and moments to soar keep coming! Not only are City Schools students learning… Not only are City Schools educators teaching… Not only are City Schools administrators leading… … they’re being recognized for their accomplishments with prestigious awards, honors and acknowledgements. Maree G. Faring Elementary School in the Brooklyn neighborhood and Claremont Middle High School in East Baltimore were two of the 102 schools across the country awarded a $10,000 grant from’s 10th Annual Hour of Code program recognizes schools who are working hard to recover from the challenges of the past few years and supports their goals to establish or expand access to computer science. Baltimore City College student Zoe Ayers received the Native American Youth of The Year Award from the Governor's Office. Zoe is from the Coharie and Lumbee Tribes. See her photo here >>>>>>>>  Erin Nutsugah, a teacher at Baltimore Design School in the Greenmount West community, was awarded a Simon McNeely Award from Society of Health and Physical Educators of Maryland. Winners are selected for their outstanding teaching, innovations and service in health, physical education, recreation or dance. Kristine Sieloff, the English for Speakers of Other Languages content lead at Digital Harbor High School in the Federal Hill/Riverside neighborhood, has been awarded a Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms Fellowship for the current school year! This yea-rlong professional learning experience and short-term international exchange helps educators from the United States develop skills to prepare students for a competitive global economy.  Forest Park High School student Jaden Payne won first place in the 2022 Jefferson Lecture essay competition sponsored by the National Humanities Alliance and the National Council of Teachers of English. The Jefferson Lecture program is an annual event to consider how the humanities help address society’s most pressing challenges; after attending a lecture in November on “The Question of Reparations: Our Past, Our Present, Our Future,” students were asked to reflect on the lecture and the case for reparations more generally. Among the many acknowledgments following her selection as the 2022-23 Maryland Teacher of the Year, Berol Dewdney, pre-K teacher at The Commodore John Rodgers School in Butchers Hill, was interviewed in December on National Public Radio’s Here & Now broadcast. A highlight from the interview: “I think about my kids… they're the real teachers of the year. They bring the leadership, and the love and the joy. It's our life's greatest privilege to elevate their power and to work with their families. And this platform, this space, is completely theirs.” The Maryland Society for Technology Education (MSTE) named Jessica Lemmo its November Digital Learning Showcase Recipient. Jessica is a library media specialist and instructional technology coach at Windsor Hills Elementary/Middle School. The MSTE cited her “high quality instruction, pedagogy, and a passion for student learning” in making the award. Read more Progress Report stories about honors around City Schools: Mobile food pantry wins award and fills stomachs Meet Maryland's Elementary and Middle School phys ed teachers of the year City Schools leader named community school coordinator of the year City Schools teachers win awards to upgrade classrooms

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Fathers and children bond over sweet treats

Judy Centers embrace and support the men who matter

January 18, 2023

Fathers and children bond over sweet treats Judy Centers embrace and support the men who matter “It was awesome. It was amazing to see so many dads and to have a space to talk about different things.”  - Joseph, father of a Curtis Bay Judy Center student “The Cupcakes for Dad event was a great idea. I enjoyed having conversations with other men about how we as men can have an impact on our kids' lives and other children.” - Allen, father of a child participating in Judy Center programs at the Abbottston Elementary Judy Center “Involved fathers make a dramatic difference in the academics and holistic achievement of their children.” - Dr. Heather Lamb, Citywide Coordinator, City Schools Judy Centers  That space… the conversations… and involvement were the goals of the Cupcakes with Dads events in October at all 14 City Schools’ Judy Center Early Learning Hubs. More than 300 men - fathers and father figures, including uncles, godfathers, big brothers, and family friends -  came together for motivational speakers, trivia games, book readings, cake decorating, giveaways, and, of course, fun interaction with their children on October 18, which was also National Chocolate Cupcake Day. “We wanted to celebrate fathers. And by coming together to share their experiences, these men were able to support and encourage each other in their roles as father figures. This is especially important for men who may be struggling with the challenges of parenthood, as it provides a sense of community and support that can help them through difficult times,” said Dr. Lamb.  That support and encouragement was evident. A participant at the Liberty Judy Center agreed: “I have never attended something so powerful! I have never witnessed such great unity of Black and white fathers coming together for our kids.”  Judy Center Early Learning Hubs prepare children for success in school and life by connecting families with high-quality, comprehensive early education services for children ages birth through five. Utilizing a multigenerational approach for families and children, and providing professional development for early childhood educators, Judy Centers help support all of the adults in a child’s early years. Baltimore City Judy Centers are all located within City schools and continue to hold events for fathers, so “we can be part of the catalyst,” said Dr. Lamb. For example: At Abbottston Elementary’s Judy Center, men meet in a monthly M.A.N. Club (Men Are Necessary) to learn about school readiness and how they can support their young child and the young children in their community. In addition, they share ways to navigate society and remain mentally, financially, emotionally, and physically healthy for themselves and their family.   At Commodore John Rodgers’ July Center, a newly-formed Dad’s group meets regularly to connect around their roles as fathers, discussing things like what self-care means to them.  The Eutaw-Marshburn Elementary School Judy Center hosts a monthly Fatherhood program where guest speakers inform dads about the resources available to them. According to one participant, “I love all of the workshops that the EMES Judy Center offers my family. We've learned so much.”  The F.A.N.(Fathers are Necessary) group at Liberty’s Judy Center helps fathers navigate being single Dads. They share experiences and gain knowledge about their children's growth in a welcoming space while learning that their presence in the school community is very important for all children, not just their own. And it’s hard to turn down tasty cupcakes, too! Read about summer activities at Judy Centers here. Check out these recent Progress Report stories about City Schools’ early childhood education:  Summer fun! Playing to learn at at Liberty Judy Center’s Camp Create PreK Students at City Springs hit the books for their first-ever research projects

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Family First: Family and Community Engagement Fellowship brings wholistic approach to learning

Year-long program helps school communities collaboratively create School-Family-Community Partnership Plans

January 06, 2023

Family First: Family and Community Engagement Fellowship brings wholistic approach to learning Year-long program helps school communities collaboratively create School-Family-Community Partnership Plans How can parents interpret complex test scores? What can families do at home to support their children’s classroom learning?  How is a student really doing beyond what’s said in report cards and at  parent-teacher conferences?  Understanding the full picture of a child’s educational experience can be as complex as it is necessary. Thanks to City Schools’ Family and Community Engagement Fellowship (FACE), families and care providers are working collaboratively with schools to build the trusting relationships that enhance student growth.  The result for the 44 schools (24 in cohort I and 20 in cohort II) who have participated since 2020 has been transformational. Approximately 300 stakeholders–parents, staff, teachers, principals, school family and community council chairs, and community schools coordinators–are represented across K-12 school teams. “Our job is to build whole students. We can only do that through our relationships with families,” explained Principal Brandon Pinkney of Walter P. Carter Elementary, whose school community participated in the inaugural cohort last year. “Building a level of mutual respect helps us all understand how to work together to ensure the success of students.” Led by the district’s Family Engagement Office, the Fellowship guides schools to create teams of principals, parents, teachers, and community school coordinators to explore questions like “what are we as a school doing to build healthy, impactful relationships with families?” Using data and benefitting from enhanced professional development, these teams create School-Family-Community Partnership Plans, with strategies for building parent relationships, ensuring parents understand student performance, and helping parents take steps toward at-home learning. The bar is set high with their family events now! FACE Fellowship schools are trained to retool their academic nights for families. By "retooled", we mean redesigning events and engaging parents and caregivers in a way that directly supports classroom instruction. At Walter P. Carter, for example, the Fellowship team recognized the need to better explain test scores, so they implemented more frequent and more detailed communication and information sessions for parents on how to interpret assessment reports. At Arundel Elementary School, another recent FACE cohort I school, the Fellowship team wanted to make it easier for parents to connect with their children’s teachers. According to Principal Rochelle Machado, “Thanks to lessons learned in the FACE Fellowship, we’re now meeting parents where they are, offering quick, easy ways to engage with our teachers about their child’s learning - in-person, and now, virtually.” Schools working in lockstep with their communities to collaborate around student growth and wholeness is a priority in the Blueprint for Maryland’s Future that matters for Baltimore families. Just ask Phyllis Gilmore, a parent in the Walter P. Carter school community. “I am very comfortable with my son being here because I know he is in good hands with the staff of the school behind him,” said Ms. Gilmore. “They are just amazing. This is a family oriented school.” In the school year 2020-2021, the FACE Fellowship launched thanks to funding from The William and Florence Hewlett Foundation and is presently resourced through City Schools’ funding. Said Shana McIver, City Schools Director of Family Engagement, “We believe that if we give families the opportunity to engage and partner in students’ learning around things like literacy, climate and culture, and wellness, it’s going to yield amazingly positive results. This Fellowship shows that. It gets us closer to meeting our goal of effective adult partnerships that support student and school improvement.” Check out these recent Progress Report stories on how City Schools engages with and supports families: Family University events at science center and museum attract big crowds Families watch their student-athletes from anywhere thanks to streaming sports 

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