Verde Elementary School’s “Verde Involving Parents” program has captured
the prestigious “California Gold Community” award for outstanding work
in improving attendance and parent participation at one of the state’s
lowest-performing schools. “The County is very pleased that our
partnership with the West Contra Costa Unified School District and North
Richmond families is helping Verde students achieve school success,”
stated Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors Chair John Gioia, who
represents the area.
The Cities, Counties and Schools Partnership, founded by the League of
California Cities, California State Association of Counties and
California School Boards Association, chose the Verde “VIP” program from
among 50 statewide entries, beating out 8 finalists for this coveted
Dr. Gloria Johnston, West Contra Costa Unified School District
Superintendent, credits Verde’s “VIP” program as a key factor in the
school’s dramatic increase in attendance. “Verde is a great example of a
school that can really make things happen with good family involvement”,
she said. In 1999-2000, Verde had the lowest attendance rates in the
West Contra Costa Unified School District. VIP, launched in February
2001, contributed to a 38% decrease in absences in 2001-2002. In
addition to better school performance, increased attendance means
much-needed increases in state funds the school receives for average
North Richmond’s Verde Elementary area is a neighborhood suffering from
the effects of grinding poverty and low educational attainment. Over
half of Verde’s 350 students are African-American and 43% are Latino.
VIP aims to improve school performance by ensuring that students make it
to school on time, behave in class and on the playground and parents are
involved in their children’s schooling.
VIP is by Annie King-Meredith (Verde class of ’63), and staffed by seven
parents and family members of current Verde students with good school
attendance and behavior. VIP parents contact the families of tardy and
absent students on a daily basis, offering everything from bus tickets
and alarm clocks to raingear and rides to get students to school.
Students who misbehave are assigned to VIP’s Student Improvement Center
on campus, where they work with Student Improvement Specialists on
conflict resolution and problem-solving skills. In addition, Verde
students “Caught in the Act” of doing something good visit the Student
Improvement Center to receive prizes.
VIP staff hold monthly assemblies to reward students with excellent,
good and improved attendance and behavior and parent awards nights to
honor their parents. Parents increasingly flock to these events, with
parent attendance rising from 15 to 150 over the last year.
“Instead of being ignored, my boys are now being recognized and rewarded
for their positive attendance and behavior. They’ve become role models
for others,” said Tracy McDowell, a VIP Family Partner with two sons
enrolled at Verde. “I’ve never felt more involved in my kids’ lives than
I am now. The VIP Program is truly wonderful. I feel blessed to be a
part of it.”
Funding for the VIP Program is provided through the Contra Costa County
Employment and Human Services Department, the S.H. Cowell Foundation and
the Zellerbach Family Fund.