First Citywide Kindergarten Canvass Announced

NEW HAVEN – Marking the beginning of a new push to empower parents and build communities of support around students, Mayor John DeStefano Jr., Superintendent of Schools Dr. Reginald Mayo and United Way of Greater New Haven President Jack Healy announced plans to knock on the door of every incoming kindergartener who lives in New Haven to welcome them to school and encourage parents to be involved in their children’s education.
Mayor DeStefano, Dr. Mayo and Healy joined State Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney (D-New Haven), Alderwoman Brenda Jones Barnes (D-13), local leaders, principals, parents and youth advocates today at Christopher Columbus Family Academy in Fair Haven to announce the first citywide Kindergarten Canvass and to launch an exciting new parent engagement campaign, called “The ART of School Success.” As part of the upcoming canvass, volunteers will talk to kindergarten parents about “The ART of School Success,” a research-informed initiative that stresses the importance of Attending school every day, Reading with your child for 20 minutes every day, and making sure to set aside time to Talk to your child every day.
The message of how to achieve school success will be shared with parents in a variety of ways – from street banners and ads on city buses to posters in shops, grocery stores, pediatricians’ offices and libraries to conversations in students’ homes. The new outreach strategy will include offering parents courses at a newly formed Parent University later this fall and completing a second New Haven Promise canvass. Last year, more than 40 volunteers and Promise staff knocked on nearly 500 doors to hand out “parent kits” and ensure parents knew about the New Haven Promise college scholarship program.
The Kindergarten Canvass and the broader outreach campaign are critical components of parental and community engagement, an important theme of the nationally recognized New Haven School Change initiative, which seeks to eliminate the achievement gap with the state, cut the high school drop-out rate in half and ensure every student is academically prepared and financially able to attend, succeed in and graduate from college.
“This outreach campaign is about empowering parents to demand the best education possible for their kids and to play an active role in helping their children achieve success in school and beyond,” Mayor DeStefano said. “Research shows that children of actively engaged parents do better in school and we all know that success in school and in college translates to better quality of life and higher incomes down the road. So let’s rally parents and help get our kindergarteners off to a successful start this year.”
“The key to ensuring success in school for our children is parental engagement. What better way to get parents engaged in their children’s education that by going into their neighborhoods, knocking on their door and saying, ‘We want to help you help your children succeed,’” Dr. Mayo said. “The ART of School Success is a campaign that gets to the heart of what it takes to prepare kids for academic achievement. Read to your children. Talk to them. Make sure they go to school every day. It’s that simple.”
“Parents are powerful forces that can have a real and profound impact on their children’s ability to succeed at school. This initiative recognizes that dynamic and seeks to make it even stronger,” Healy said. “The ART of School Success campaign fits in perfectly to our mission with Boost! – to provide wraparound services that support the whole child, academically, socially and psychologically.”
The “ART of School Success” campaign and citywide Kindergarten Canvass are collaborative efforts between the City of New Haven, New Haven Public Schools, United Way of Greater New Haven, Boost!, and New Haven Promise. 
The first Kindergarten Canvass on Aug. 18 will involve more than 150 volunteers fanning out into neighborhoods across New Haven and visiting families with a child about to enter kindergarten. Volunteers will be ready to answer questions about the first day of school and will come armed with information about transportation, uniforms and other essential back-to-school information. Volunteers will include teachers, principals and staff, but also members of the community.
“Kindergarten and early childhood education are of fundamental importance in closing the achievement gap for urban students,” said State Senate Majority Leader Martin M. Looney.  “That’s why focusing on parental involvement and early learning experiences are so crucial for student achievement as we look to the start of the school year.”
“When we open the door to parents and reach out to them, we reassure them about the education process,” said Columbus Family Academy Principal Abie Benitez. “We constantly tell parents that they are the first teachers in a child’s life and we look for them to remain engaged throughout the school year.”
“I see the difference that strong parenting makes,” said Darrell Allick, a youth mentor who founded the anti-violence group, Ice the Beef. “We have to teach parents to get involved early on and to stay involved in the first grade, second grade and beyond. It’s a learning experience for parents too.”
Research shows that school attendance in the early grades is a key predictor of graduation rates and that students whose parents read and talk with them every day in primary school significantly outperform their peers on standardized tests at age 15.
More than 150 volunteers are needed to make this event a success. Anyone interested in signing up for a canvass shift should go to 

Dates for city-wide canvass are:
· Saturday, August 18: 9 a.m. to noon
· Saturday, August 18: 1-4 p.m.
· Tuesday, August 21: 4:30-7:30 p.m.
· Thursday, August 23: 4:30-7:30 p.m.
· Rain date: Saturday, August 25: 9 a.m.-noon; 1-4 p.m.

Training will be provided to all volunteers, with additional information after registration. For information or questions about volunteering, please contact Joshua Mamis at 203-772-2010. Parents with questions about kindergarten can contact Daniel Diaz at 203-946-5087.