Atlantis Charter School Teacher
According to Robert Beatty, the executive director of the Atlantis Charter School in Fall River, what the school did with its Recovery Act awards is illustrative of what it wants to do with its students.

Recovery Act Impact: Atlantis Charter School

  • $4K for preschool grants for children with disabilities

  • $201K for the education of children with disabilities

  • $153K for improving basic programs

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.

Atlantis Charter School Classroom
Indeed, each of the programs focus on another aspect of student life. The first is a regular and special education teacher collaboration project. The second is a special education literacy project. The third is for mentors for student community service activity. The fourth is to improve the capacity of regular educators working with students with disabilities. And the fifth is a parent partner initiative.

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."

Atlantis Charter School Teacher
Tavares was a parent partner herself and she said it made an "amazing difference. The mother kept telling me what a powerful impact this had."

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.

Atlantis Charter School Staff
Emily Uon, a fourth grade teacher, and Corrie Marchand, a fifth grade teacher, are coordinating the co-teaching initiative, which involves developing and implementing a model for having a regular teacher and a special education teacher co-teach the fifth grade. "It's been amazing," said Marchand. "I truly believe that what we are doing is benefitting all the kids." According to Uon, the program has been so successful because the students get both the regular and special education expertise. "When you are working in a co-teaching model you need both philosophies of education," she said. "When you put two ideas together, it ends up being more effective."

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.