Partnership of Summer School Education planning for another year
“The definition of ‘posse’ is a group of people who come together for a common goal,” explained Paula Harp, director of the Partnership of Summer School Education (POSSE) program and the Making a Difference program at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma
Harp smiled as she described just what the POSSE program does for the youth of Durant and the surrounding area. “The main goal of the Partnership of Summer School Education program is to provide academic remediation to students in grades pre-k through second grade,” stated Harp. “It is the goal of the Choctaw Nation to provide a culturally enriched, safe and positive atmosphere for the students that participate in the summer school program.”
According to Valerie Crabtree, principal of the Durant summer school program, POSSE’s inaugural summer was well received by students, teachers and parents alike. Teachers were thrilled to be working in a more hands-on situation with smaller classes and more time to devote to each student.
The future of POSSE was discussed at Second Annual Superintendents’ Luncheon on Sept. 17. After a presentation of the success at the Durant location, many educators were curious how they could include their school in the program. Promising plans were made to expand the service area of the program. According to Harp, next year, and additional seven Bryan County schools will be added to the program: Achille, Caddo, Calera, Silo, Bennington, Colbert and Rock Creek Public Schools.
POSSE was available for eligible children pre-k through second grade, who attend school Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. as well as the “Jump Start to Kindergarten” group of students, who attend class Monday through Thursday from 7:30 a.m. to noon. It is a seven-week-long program, held at Washington Irving Elementary School in Durant, which began June 3, and concluded July 25.
The selection of students to be accepted into POSSE is based on teacher recommendation and test scores; Choctaw tribal membership is not required. If the student is having trouble with reading or math during the school year, the teacher will suggest to Harp they need to be admitted into the summer school program.
Harp continued illustrating the goals of POSSE by listing examples of how the staff and educators conduct themselves:
- they work to inspire and empower the students
- build on the strengths of the community
- applaud students’ achievements
- expand resources
- work with communities, schools and organizations in the geographic service area
- plan, implement, expand, coordinate and evaluate the program itself
According to Harp, the program has several objectives.
- The children will grow academically through remediation in reading and math
- grow socially through cultural services provided
- develop emotionally through the afternoon educational activities
- feel safe and secure while being supervised by a competent and caring staff
- benefit in a positive manner as they are taught caring and cooperative attitudes
There were 184 students enrolled in the initial summer school program according to Harp, who worked closely with Durant School administration and staff to develop the curriculum for the summer school. “Since I am a former teacher, it helps me a lot, because I know what the school day is like,” and since Harp was once a teacher from Durant ISD, the teachers she is now working with are some of her good friends. “We have a great working relationship; we just kind of know what the other is thinking and what we need to do.”
The Choctaw Nation helps with funding POSSE, providing the school with half of the needed funds. While the Nation provides funding for teachers’ salaries and supplies throughout the seven weeks, Durant ISD provides all other expenses, such as bus drivers’ salaries, bus fuel, air conditioning in the building, summer lunch program, etc.
Harp said Durant Public Schools usually accept around 300 children into kindergarten each year with about 100 of these students who have never gone to school. She described the program as being an exceptional program for children who have never experienced a school environment but are about to enter kindergarten. “Some kids, when they start kindergarten, have never been to school (pre-k) before,” she said, because it is not required. “They may or may not have been taught their alphabet, how to tie their shoes, etc.” During the seven-week period of Jump Start to Kindergarten, those areas are covered, she said. “We teach them quite a few things, so that when school starts, they are ready to go.”
Locating these children throughout the Durant area for Jump Start to Kindergarten proved to be a daunting but rewarding task. “We visited all the Head Starts and the Durant schools and found names for all Choctaw children who fit the age group,” explained Harp.
“The education department employees visited the homes of Choctaw children in the Durant school district and found Choctaw children who are going into kindergarten but have not been through pre-k,” said Harp. “We did it in one afternoon, each of us had a certain number of students to find, and we just went out and did it. It was a great group effort.”
“We’re not in the business of running schools, they’re the experts,” said Harp. “We are just helping to fund the extra expense.”
The 2013 summer school theme was “The Great Outdoor Adventure.” The first two weeks of summer school had a camping theme, the next two weeks an aerospace theme and the last three weeks a Native American theme, in which Choctaw storyteller Tim Tingle visited the students and provided each child with their own book.
A field trip was made each week. “They really made an impression,” Harp said of the outings. Students visited the Choctaw Nation Recycling Center spurring them to encourage parents by saying thing such as “don’t waste water,” and telling them how to recycle at home, turn the lights out and clean up the environment.
If you’d like to learn more about this programs, contact Paula Harp at 580-924-8280 ext. 2452, or visit their Facebook page.