Less than a year after its inception, the Friends of Mifflin (FOM) Committee is taking steps to increase its impact at the East Falls elementary school for which it is named.
Speaking at a committee meeting on Tuesday night, Tom Sauerman, president of the East Falls Community Council, outlined several goals that the group hopes to achieve in coming months.
Unanimously approved by the EFCC in June of 2012, the all-volunteer FOM has partnered with the Philadelphia School District’s Thomas Mifflin Elementary School in the interest of bolstering the school’s reputation as a viable educational option for local families.
Inspired by the book “How to Walk to School,” which describes a Chicago neighborhood’s quest to revitalize a school located in its community, Sauerman said that a principal aim of FOM in the coming months will be to establish a symposium to learn from existing school’s “Friends” committees, and aid other fledgling school groups as they work to establish themselves.
Sauerman hopes to have a one-day event in the spring, bringing together various organizations to facilitate the exchange of ideas pertinent to neighborhood schools. He also recognized that schools with established Friends committees – such as the Cook-Wissahickon School and J.S. Jenks Elementary in Chestnut Hill – are receiving favorable remarks on education rating forums.
“What we’re trying to do is to bring all these people together… so that people can help one another in this process,” he said.
Accomplishments and goals
Despite being less than a year old, FOM has several accomplishments to its credit.
Currently, students from Arcadia University and Philadelphia University are assisting faculty with teaching duties, and newly-implemented before and after-school programs have provided families additional safety and security for their school-aged children.
Two grants from The Picasso Project were secured: the first, totaling $4,500 and enhanced by additional donations, allowed for programs dedicating to promoting peace, and culminated in the making of a quilt. A second Picasso grant for $3,500 will go towards a musical that is expected to be produced this spring.
There were enhancements to the school’s physical plant as well: a crumbling wall located behind Mifflin School was also repaired after concerted efforts to draw attention to the threat it posed, and trees that had fallen in the school’s arboretum were also removed.
Looking ahead, Sauerman said an indoor rock-climbing gym, which can be used for children’s parties and play, is planned to open on Scotts Ln. in the spring.
Not content to rest upon its laurels, Sauerman facilitated a discussion seeking new and additional priorities as FOM approaches its second year.
While an emphasis was placed on safety, security, and academics, residents present at the meeting spoke of the need for enhanced extracurricular activities and marketing efforts designed to encourage communication from the school to the surrounding community.
To entice fundraising, FOM is conducting ongoing fundraising, and fielded suggestion to create a “wish list” for the school to encourage individuals and businesses looking to provide resources for specific programs. Efforts are also underway to solicit the larger community for volunteers to contribute their talents to the school.
Praise from the principal and Councilman Jones
Mifflin Principal Leslie Mason was present at the meeting and praised the FOM on its efforts on her school’s behalf.
Noting a lengthy procurement process that the school district employs, Mason thanked the committee for the funding that allowed her to purchase school supplies and equipment with increased expedience.
Although not faced with closure, Mason was unsure how the current school closing initiative will impact her school or her faculty. However, she pointed to the growing number of students – currently at 300, up from 230 – and the sense of cohesiveness currently present at the school.
“Mifflin is a family,” she said. “The kids know all the adults; the adults know all the kids; everybody knows everybody.”
At the request of FOM, Fourth District Councilman Curtis Jones, Jr. recently took a tour of the school. Recalling his visit, Jones said that he heard shouting through the halls, but was surprised to find out the reason: enthusiasm as a result of student’s test scores.
“That kind of excitement is all over the school,” he observed.
Saskia Caporellie, a parent of two Mifflin students and FOM volunteer, made what is perhaps the most important observation for current and prospective parents.
“The kids are doing great,” she said.