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Verde School “VIP” Program Honored for Improved Attendance and Parent Participation
September 20, 2002

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 annual award.

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 daily attendance.
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.