By Xue Lin Wang
While some community school coordinators prefer smaller sized schools, Savanity Davis does the opposite—she seeks larger sized schools. At P.S. 19 Marino Jeantet, a Community Learning School, Davis has served as the Community School Director for over 2,000 students for the past three years.
Located in Queens, New York, P.S. 19 Marino Jeantet is the nation’s largest public elementary school. P.S. 19 serves grades kindergarten to 5th, with each grade level averaging around 400 students, and employs more than 200 teachers and six assistant principals. Queens has increasingly become reflective of New York’s reputation as a city of immigrants, and P.S. 19, with 73 % of its students designated as English language learners, 90% are Latinx, and 10% of South Asian, aligns with this profile.
Coordinating for over 2,000 students and 200 teachers is no easy task, nevertheless, Davis loves the work she does.
Davis believes a Community School Director works to find solutions that can address the student as a whole: academically, physically and social-emotionally. Davis’ approach to the work emanates from her fidelity to the New York City Community Learning School Initiative’s (CLS) model developed in partnership with the city’s teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers. Following the CLS model, Davis’ solutions come in many forms either with funding, or without funding, because effective intervention services and programming must be sustainable, and not dictated by the fluctuations in school budgets. This role demands that she thinks creatively to address not only the student’s needs, but also the needs of families and the staff. Teachers especially benefit from professional learning sessions Davis guides them to, customized for Community Learning Schools.
Davis’s ability to create meaningful and caring relationships with families is extraordinary. The activities and events Davis coordinate extends past the students and into their families and the surrounding South Ozone Park community.
On a biweekly basis, Davis arranges a food pantry with Food Bank NYC to feed 330 families. She connects families to resources; for instance, how to obtain the correct immigration documents and lawyers. Through professional development offered by the CLS central team, Davis connected with Smile New York Dental, bringing free dental services to the elementary school students. She works to host ESL classes throughout the year. Davis leveraged the UFT’s relationship with the Hispanic Federation to solve two needs: kindergartens facing academic challenges and their parents seeking to help with homework. Together, Davis and the Hispanic Federation developed a program to teach parents best practices to help with homework, which, in turn, helps children get the most from working independently and perform better in school.
On average, over 250 parents are actively engaged in their children’s academics. These high levels of family engagement reflects the cultural values of the Latinx and South Asian population, and the effectiveness of P.S. 19’s parent coordinator and collaboration with Davis and CLS.
With a $15,000 grant from the mayor’s office, Davis secured tutoring services from Sylvan Learning Center, the top provider of quality tutoring programs nationwide. Davis deepened the relationship, bringing Sylvan on to P.S. 19’s advisory board as a partner and decision-maker for the Community Learning School. The partner even donated $100 for Thanksgiving turkeys.
The number of projects Davis brings to P.S. 19 is incredible. Her seamless integration of CLS pillars from health and wellness to academic and educator support, to family and community engagement, weaved with the school administration’s academic and extra-curricular program is paying dividends—P.S. 19 has an attendance rate of 98%.
Before any community school coordinator steps into his/her role, Davis recommends investing in a coffee machine and furthermore, investing in a good coffee mug that has a sturdy lid. The role can get overwhelming and coordinators need to understand that the work performed for one school may not be applicable to the next. However, Davis wants to highlight that there are many resources and support available to guide coordinators every step of the way.