Three Gifts Bolster CommPACT School Reform Effort

Three significant gifts totaling close to $500,000 will help support the CommPACT School Reform Initiative, based at the Neag School of Education. The innovative program, designed to improve student achievement and school climate, recently received $250,000 from The NEA Foundation, $195,000 from the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation and more than $50,000 from AT&T Cconnecticut.

CommPACT was developed in 2008 by an unusual collaboration involving the teachers’ unions, three school administrator organizations and a research university and is funded, in large part, by a state appropriation.

AT&T Connecticut’s gift of $53,500 will support the CommPACT facilitator who works onsite at Hartford’s M.D. Fox Elementary School and serves as liaison between Fox and the Neag School. The grant will also provide funding for onsite professional development for teachers and administrators.

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AT&T Connecticut President Ramona Carlow (center) speaks about her company’s commitment to supporting education programs in Connecticut designed to prepare students for future business and industry needs. On behalf of AT&T CT she presented a $53,500 gift to support the CommPACT Schools initiative operating at MD Fox Elementary. Listening in are Fox’s CommPACT coach, Eileen O’Rouke (left) and State Senate Majority Leader John Fonfara (right) who represents the Hartford area.

“People have asked me why AT&T is making this kind of commitment to education, and the answer is really simple: It’s in our best interest. We need all of our schools to answer the challenge of creating the next generation of American workers, a workforce that is ready to compete in our new always connected economy,” says Ramona Carlow, president of AT&T Connecticut. “As a business community, we must become more involved in helping our young people, our teachers and our administrators,” she says.

CommPACT (which stands for community, parents, administrators, children, and teachers) brings together the stakeholders to take part in reforming their own schools.  UConn’s education experts and researchers collaborate with them to identify problems, choose new practices, implement those solutions, and analyze the results.

Richard Schwab, executive director of CommPACT and emeritus dean of the Neag School, expressed gratitude for the gifts. “To be successful, we have to have partners who believe in investing in their communities. With support from AT&T, Balfour and the NEA Foundation, CommPACT is in a stronger position to help our schools become the kind of school all parents wish for their children.”

CommPACT got off the ground in September 2008 with an investment from the Neag School, $475,000 from the state of Connecticut and an initial $250,000 grant from The NEA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the country’s largest teachers union.

Teacher Heather Kahn reads to her class at M.D. Fox Elementary School in Hartford, one of eight CommPACT schools in Connecticut.
Teacher Heather Kahn reads to her class at M.D. Fox Elementary School in Hartford, one of eight CommPACT schools in Connecticut.

The NEA Foundation’s new $250,000 gift is part of $1.2 million the organization distributed across the country to groundbreaking union-community partnerships that are taking comprehensive approaches to close achievement gaps.

“We believe these projects show great promise,” says Harriet Sanford, president and chief executive officer of the NEA Foundation. The benefits of the initiative are that it’s based on “collaboration that is grounded in research on best practices, driven by educators, supported by the community, and focused on improving student performance and creating sustainable systemic reform.”

The Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation (Bank of America, N.A. trustee) is dedicated to education reform in New England to shore up pipelines for student success from grammar school through college.

“We are pleased to partner with UConn’s Neag School of Education to provide children in Connecticut’s urban schools with a high-quality education and to close the achievement gap. This work exemplifies the Lloyd G. Balfour Foundation’s mission of promoting college readiness and access for underserved populations in New England,” says Michealle Larkins, vice president, grantmaking program officer, philanthropic management, Bank of America, N.A.

CommPACT’s founders include: the American Federation of Teachers-Connecticut, the Connecticut Education Association, the Connecticut Association of Public School Superintendents, the Connecticut Association of Urban Superintendents, the Connecticut Federation of School Administrators, and UConn’s Neag School of Education.

In addition to Fox Elementary, the other CommPACT “eight” include Davis Street and Hill Central in New Haven, Washington and West Side Middle in Waterbury, the Shoreline Academy in New London, and Bridgeport’s Barnum and Longfellow schools.