BACK TO SCHOOL AUTHORITY: East Hartford Public Schools bridging the gap between families and school staff

East Hartford Public Schools bridging the gap between families and staff
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 6:07 PM EDT
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EAST HARTFORD, CT (WFSB) - Eyewitness News is your back-to-school authority.

Wednesday was the first day of school for East Hartford Public School students.

This year, the district is putting a special emphasis on bridging gaps between families and school staff.

“We really are just going with a team mindset,” said Alexis Safo-Agyeman.

Safo-Agyeman is a Family and Community Partnership Coordinator with East Hartford Public Schools.

Her role is centered around family engagement and support.

“Just connecting with families, working with our family support specialists. Not only to get to know our families but making sure that they feel welcomed in a sense of belonging to our system and to their school,” said Safo-Agyeman.

She helps direct community resources that help students and families feel supported.

Things like free haircuts for children ahead of the new school year.

“Making sure that we have the resources that our families need to feel that support throughout the school year beyond the backpacks and supplies,” Safo-Agyeman said.

Connecting families with health and wellness resources as well as financial resources is also essential.

This year’s theme is all are welcome.

“Everything that we’re going to be doing in regards to events, supports with families, supports with our teachers and admins fall in line,” said Safo-Agyeman.

Safo-Agyeman works closely with Edgar Ramirez.

He’s fluent in both English and Spanish and he’s starting his second year as a Bilingual Family Support Specialist with East Hartford Public Schools.

“It’s been a great help because some of these families don’t talk English at all so I can call them and speak to them in their native language,” Ramirez said.

More than 40 languages are spoken within the school district.

Having someone who can communicate the needs of students with non-English speaking families helps eliminate barriers.

“They’re more than happy to tell me everything they’ve been struggling with, any kind of help that they need and then I can talk to other people if needed and we can just make it work,” said Ramirez.

Before the bilingual family support specialist role was created, communication was a barrier for some families.

“It’s just like a big difference. They are so happy that we are here to be able to help them out because before, it was so hard for them,” Ramirez said.

He says keeping families engaged is critical.

“We want to keep engaging the families so that they can keep participating more,” said Ramirez.

This team of family engagement and support specialists is ready to help families tackle the new school year.

“I know that our students are excited, but like we are excited to have them back into the building and getting them to a place where I know they’re going to be successful and have a lot of great experiences this year,” said Ramirez.