Women United for Community Schools

Thursday Aug 3rd, 2023

Women United for Community Schools recently hosted an educational discussion for current members and guests with the intention of recruiting more women to join this growing affinity group of United Way.

A crowd of nearly 80 women learned about the impact of the Community School Model from president Laurie Root, who shared an overview of community schools and successes since the initiative was first implemented in 2017. Laurie also shared the most recent Pennsylvania Value Added Assessment System (PVAAS) scores from Erie's Public Schools from this past year which measures student academic growth in the areas of math, English language arts and science. Students showed remarkable growth resulting in Erie's Public Schools ranking in the top 10 out of 500 school districts in the Commonwealth!

In addition, the women heard about the Community School Model at Union City Elementary, now entering its third year as a community school. A panel discussion, moderated by Donna Douglass, Women United Executive Council Member, was presented by Dr. Melissa Tomcho, principal; Bailey Pituch, community school director; Crisi Williams, kindergarten teacher; Michelle Flaherty, STEM teacher and Robin Smith, first grade teacher. The panel addressed what resources are being brought into the school to break down the nonacademic barriers to learning that students face at Union City elementary, the success of family engagement activities and the support provided to teachers since becoming a community school.

Donna closed the presentation by sharing why she became a member of Women United: 

When I was in elementary school in Corry back in the late 1950s and early 60s, we were pretty poor. My single mom, brother and I had to live with relatives for a number of years. After my brother died, my mom and I lived in a small trailer park on Rt. 6. where she worked as a waitress next door. 

I think now how if my school had been a Community School, life would have been a lot less stressful for us. My mom saved every penny and eventually bought her own restaurant when I was in high school and then we did really well, but those early days were kind of rough. So, when I see young kids enduring trauma of their own, I can relate, and those experiences inspired me to support our Community School initiative.