July 3, 2015
Through snow-lined streets Joanne Walsh, principal of Our Lady Queen of Angels, and her entire faculty, made their way into the warm, welcoming environs of Partnership Trustee board member Jose Fernandez’s home for a holiday drinks party. The soiree was a culminating event after a year of visits between Jose and Joanne, which according to Jose, “Just seemed like the right thing to do.”
Joining the board in early 2014, Jose wanted to understand how a Partnership school really functioned, so he volunteered to meet with Joanne at the school each month for coffee and conversation. As Jose noted, “Being a principal can be a lonely role. Leading can be isolating. I thought by meeting monthly with Joanne I could be a sounding board and maybe help. The experience has been incredibly rewarding. And not just because I was useful to Joanne, but more so because of how much my appreciation for what she and her teachers take on and accomplish each day has grown. It is a perspective I wish more of our donors, supporters and friends of the school could experience first-hand.”
For Joanne, the monthly meetings were an opportunity to reflect on what was most pressing and what had gone right. True to form, Joanne tended to look at all she had yet to accomplish rather than lauding all she and her staff had undertaken. During a year of huge transition for OLQA and all six Partnership Schools, including the introduction of new ELA and Math curriculum across all grades, Joanne and her faculty were put through their paces but rose to the challenge at every opportunity. Identifying rising stars at her school was a highlight Joanne was delighted to share as 6th-8th grade ELA teacher, Will Beller was chosen for the newly created position of Academic Dean. “Sharing both the peaks and challenges with Jose made my job a little easier. Each month, I looked forward to our meeting. It was that rare opportunity for me to speak to another adult, with an ‘outside’ perspective that helped shape my thinking. It prompted me to remember to look up and look out. Our meetings are invaluable.”
In one particularly stressful situation, an OLQA family had trouble returning home from Mexico. Remembering that Jose had worked at the State Department, Joanne reached out asking for the right number to call. Instead, Jose drafted a letter for the family with the exact wording he knew they needed and faxed it to Joanne. Within hours, the family was on their flight home.
Next on their conversation list is the idea of creating a basketball program focused on the middle school girls. With two daughters of his own, Jose feels strongly about the importance of sports in young girls’ lives. It might take a few coffees and conversations, but they are determined to figure it out, together.
If you would like to volunteer at a Partnership school, let us know. Simply email Cee Greene at firstname.lastname@example.org You will be warmly welcomed.