PENCIL Cracks the Code for School Success Through Business Partnerships

10.17.12 | Leave a Comment | Press Releases

Principal For A Day - October 18, 2012

NYC Education and Business Leaders Brief   U.S. Secretary of Education on Impact of PENCIL Partnerships on 18th Annual Principal For A Day©

NEW YORK – October 18, 2012 – PENCIL, the New York based non-profit that pioneered the idea of improving student achievement by developing and supporting long-term partnerships between businesses and public schools, is  again setting the standard for meaningful business engagement in public education.  At its annual Principal For A Day celebration, PENCIL shared results showing the transformative impact of its model.

“We know that business investment and participation in education are critical to school success,” said Michael Haberman, president of PENCIL. “But being able to point to what is working and the types of engagement having real impact – that is invaluable.”

Public-private partnerships are increasingly recognized as a critical means of driving public education reform and catalyzing innovations in public schools. PENCIL started the now ubiquitous Principal For A Day (PFAD) program in 1995. Since then, the model has evolved, as PENCIL moved the business community away from a single day of service to  a committed, long-term, impact-driven partnership. The PENCIL Partnership Program currently addresses a wide array of school and student needs, and is an integral part of nearly 400 New York City public schools, affecting over 215,000 students, with affiliate programs in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Rochester, and—next month—Chicago.

“I’ve been involved with PENCIL for nearly a decade and interested in education for as long as I can remember. I am thrilled to now be able to point my colleagues in the business world to what is working,” said Dave Barger, President and CEO of JetBlue Airways and chair of PENCIL’s Board of Directors. “PENCIL’s results enable us to move beyond conversations about why business must play a role in supporting education to the vital discussions about how best to do so.”

Each year, as part of the Principal For A Day celebration, PENCIL encourages principals to host their Business Partners at their schools; these visits provide an important opportunity for principals to introduce their Partners to their school community, and can inform Partnership plans for the year.

Secretary Duncan visits PENCIL success school 

Today, one of the PENCIL Partnership schools had a very special visitor when U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan visited PS/IS 111 Adolph S. Ochs in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan.

“These Partnerships are targeted, they’re effective, and they’re driven by a single goal: to help our children get the education they deserve,” said Secretary Duncan in a taped video message to the luncheon-gathering of Pencil Partners, business leaders and principals on Thursday afternoon. “That’s a model we can all be proud of, and that’s a goal we should all commit to.”

In 2010, Principal Medina began her relationship with VOCES, the Latino Heritage Network of The New York Times Company.  Working closely with Patricia Sierra Sampson, international advertising director, New York Times Global and VOCES co-chair, and Richard Murrieta, IT project manager and head of the VOCES Community Outreach Steering Committee, they began by developing strategies to increase and improve engagement among immigrant parents at the school. By reaching out to other affinity groups and volunteers at the Times Company, as well as utilizing VOCES members’ fluency in Spanish, the relationship has been able to offer parents a number of services addressing the school’s most common languages (Spanish, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Haitian Creole, and Russian). To enable parents to improve their communications with the school, the Partners established eight-week, conversational “Survival English” classes, moderated by Times Company volunteers. In turn, to improve school communication with parents, a “buddy system” was developed with Times Company volunteers providing translation services at school events as well as translating important school-related documents.

As a result, “the parents are more comfortable in having conversations with teachers, office staff, and each other,” says Principal Medina of her Partnership’s impact. “They are attending more events, such as PTA meetings, workshops, and school performances and events.”

This year, the Partners will also launch a “Plant a Seed Program” for students at the school. The program will build on a VOCES program at the Times Company that celebrates notable Latino professionals.  “Plant a Seed” will expose Latino students from PS 111 to Latino industry leaders, who will serve as role models and share their stories of achievement.

With committed business partners, PS 111 is a great example of the kind of impact PENCIL Partnerships are having, and PENCIL is delighted to be able to share this amazing work with Secretary Duncan.

Additional impact at PS/IS 111 Adolph S. Ochs includes:

  • Family attendance at PTA meetings more than doubled, from an average of 8-10 parents per meeting before the Partnership, to an average of nearly 20 parents per meeting during the 2011-12 school year.
  • Attendance at Open School night significantly increased by 27 %, from 315 families prior to the start of the project to 400 families in the spring.
  • The school saw a six-point increase in the percentage of parents reporting on the NYC Department of Education Learning Environment Survey that they talked at least monthly with a teacher or other adult about their child’s academic progress during the school year.

A Principal For A Day celebration luncheon, sponsored by Macy’s, Aramark, and Scholastic in PENCIL Partner JP Morgan Chase’s downtown offices  , also was held today to honor this year’s participants in the PENCIL Partnership Program with Master of Ceremonies Maurice DuBois, Anchor, WCBS TV. The program included remarks by New York City Schools Chancellor, Dennis Walcott; Erica Christensen, Director of Community Affairs, CA Technologies, a PENCIL Lead Sponsor; John Galante, Chief Information Officer, Chase Wealth Management JPMorgan Chase & Co.;  Principal Claudy Damus-Makelele of the Essence School /JHS 311; and James Johnson, Partner, Debevoise & Plimpton LLP. The luncheon was immediately preceded by business partners’ visits to dozens of schools throughout the five boroughs.

For more information about PENCIL, visit its website at or call 646-638-0565.

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