Detectives: City Connects coordinators in early education programs

News headlines keep echoing a dismal fact: across the country, children are dealing with the trauma of living through a global pandemic. 

This is true for both school-aged children and for young children ages 0 to 5. And as City Connects Coordinator Elizabeth Planje explains, working young children in preschool programs to provide services and promote healing requires a different lens.

“You do have to be a little more curious to find the root cause of what’s bothering very young children,” Planje says. She’s the coordinator at Sacred Heart School, in Lynn, Mass., as well as a therapist. At Sacred Heart, she works with students as young as 2.9 years old. “The older kids can tell you more about what’s going on, but with younger kids you have to be more of a detective.” 

This means observing, thinking, and testing out ideas across all four City Connects domains — academic, social/emotional, physical health, and family — to understand children’s needs.

Planje tells the story of a young child who screamed every time he went to the restroom. It took some reflection, but eventually Planje and the teachers theorized that the child was experiencing sensory overload. The sound of flushing was too loud for him. The solution: he now goes to the restroom wearing headphones that muffle the noise. 

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The Weekly Connect 6/1/21

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Fourth grade science NAEP scores in 2019 declined by two points compared to 2015.

Twenty-seven states have abandoned universal masking in schools

Students are struggling with pandemic-related mental health challenges.

To read more, click on the following links.

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Celebrating Teachers at the Tobin School

Last October, Jannet Sanchez started working as a City Connects Coordinator at Boston’s Maurice J. Tobin School.

Her first step? Learn about her new school quickly by building strong relationships with teachers.

Classes had been going on for a month, but only remotely because of the pandemic, so Sanchez couldn’t have the face-to-face interactions with students that help coordinators get to know their schools.

Relationships with teachers filled this gap. Teachers shared feedback on how students were doing, supplementing what Sanchez could see when she did classroom observations on Zoom.

To conduct whole class reviews, Sanchez met with teachers in teams so she could hear multiple perspectives on each student.

“We communicated a lot about the best services for kids. And some teachers asked me to set up social skills groups,” Sanchez says. “One teacher asked us to come up with a girls leadership group because there were some mean girl dynamics. Another teacher asked for an art club, so I set that up. It was me and the art teacher encouraging girls to draw and socialize.” 

The teacher/coordinator relationship is crucial — whether there is or isn’t a pandemic — because it’s a two-way street. Coordinators learn from teachers’ about students strengths and needs. And teachers learn more from coordinators about all the City Connects domains — academic, social/emotional, physical health, and family — of students’ lives. 

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The Weekly Connect 5/24/21

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

Research from the National Bureau of Economic Research reenforces the case for universal preschool

As eviction moratoriums end, the risk of homelessness increases

Cleveland tests out a kinder, gentler summer school

To read more, click on the following links.

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Meeting with our community partners — virtually


“Our community partners are so vital to the work of City Connects” Lynne Sullivan, City Connects’ Director of Implementation, says, “so we encourage each district to hold a community partner event each year.”

Whether it’s a breakfast in Minnesota or in Boston, these events let our partners and our staff come together to share both the work they’re doing and their goals for better serving students. They get to chat, brainstorm, and make connections.

“City Connects’ role as a convener is so important,” Sullivan says. “We want to create time for broader discussions. We want to cut through the pandemic’s isolation. And we want schools and community partners to hear directly from each other about what, specifically, they need from each other.

But in the middle of the pandemic, meeting face to face isn’t safe. So City Connects co-hosted a virtual event for our coordinators, our community partners, and the principals of public schools and Catholic schools in the Boston area.

Our co-hosts were the Boston Public Schools’ Office of Community Partnerships and the Archdiocese of Boston’s Catholic Schools Office.

“We convened everyone remotely so they could hear from each other what they’ve been doing during the pandemic,” Sullivan says, “and so they could talk about how they’re planning for the next school year.”

The event included a panel discussion featuring two principals — Efrain Toledano of Boston’s Tobin School and Beth Looney of Boston Catholic’s Mission Grammar School – explaining what they’ll need from community partners when their schools reopen in the fall.

“The principals said to the community partners, ‘Please share all your ideas for how you want to work with kids.’ ‘No idea is crazy,’ ” Sullivan says. “The principals are eager to identify the gaps in services for kids so that they can work with community partners to fill them.”

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The Weekly Connect 5/17/21

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

New Jersey’s early childhood program shows positive impacts into 10th grade.

Schools can help families access federal help to pay for Internet service.

Art teachers can help restore students’ mental health. 

To read more, click on the following links.

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A new City Connects Coordinator: Shannon Stamegna

Shannon StamegnaOnce upon a time, Shannon Stamegna thought she might go to law school. But after she started looking at educational programs, she found the social work program at Salem State University. 

“The description of the program and of learning to help others just matched my personality,” she says. “I also loved the idea of working with families and connecting them to community services.” 

“I think there are times when parents think it’s best to figure things out themselves, when really they would be so much better off asking for help and getting connected to community organizations that are excited to provide support.” 

Stamegna worked in community health as a licensed clinical social worker. But because of the pandemic she had been working at home, still helping people but at a distance. 

Then she heard about a job opening at City Connects. So two months ago, she jumped into a new challenge and a year-old pandemic and became the City Connects Coordinator at St. Pius V School in Lynn, Mass.  Continue reading

The Weekly Connect 5/10/21

Here’s the new edition of The Weekly Connect. Check it out and sign up to have it delivered to your inbox!

Here are some of the things we’ve been reading about this week:

In Salem, City Connects staff are planning for summer

A new report from the national nonprofit Zero to Three says that inequality starts early, when children are infants and toddlers. 

In Massachusetts, 1.6 million adults are struggling to get enough to eat

The pandemic has taken a disproportionate toll on immigrant students and English learners

To read more, click on the following links.

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