Recovery Act Impact: Atlantis Charter School
That is to help each of its 744 children in grades kindergarten through eighth grade learn to the best of their ability.
The school, which was founded 16 years ago as one of the original charter schools authorized in Massachusetts, received three stimulus awards from the Department of Education: $4K for preschool grants for children with disabilities; $201K for the education of children with disabilities; and, $153K for improving its basic programs.
"It was a very exciting year," said Diane Desrosiers, PhD., director of student services for the school, who noted that the Atlantis staff developed five initiatives with the stimulus grants that they felt would best serve their students. The decision was also made to appoint a different teacher as coordinator of each program. "We wanted each program to have its own identity," explained Desrosiers.
Dawn Tavares, a fifth grade teacher, coordinates the parent partner program. The program identified kids at risk and assigned them a parent partner who goes into the home and offers homework and behavioral strategies as well as support. Many of the students at Atlantis are from single parent homes or are being raised by a grandparent and they don't know how to provide support to their kids. "Modeling for them helps," said Tavares. "It helps [the kids] be successful. The point of the program is to build a 'bridge' between the home and school."
Sunil Jagannath a fifth grade teacher, coordinates the mentoring program and he said that what he teaches the kids in this program is difficult to learn in a classroom. "We teach kids how to behave in a professional setting," he said. To that end, the kids -- who are provided with dress codes for participation in the program -- are taken to animal shelters, soup kitchens and hospitals and are taught, on the job, the appropriate way to behave.
"We want the kids to connect their education with the jobs they want and learn behavior in the workplace," said Desrosiers. One student in the program who is being raised by his grandmother had a father in jail and a mentally ill mother. "This was a kid who needed these skills but he had no models," she added.
Michelle Carney, a Title 1 teacher, coordinates the literacy clinic to develop a model to help those students with gaps in their literacy skills. "ARRA let me share instructional methods, theories and materials," she said. "A lot of what I teach involves cognitive instruction. I shared that thinking with teachers so they can share it with their kids."
And of course, that is what this is all about - helping the Atlantis students succeed.
"The stimulus funds have made such a difference in our students' lives," said Desrosiers.